Exploring Exciting Texts moves on
Indian Ensemble is proud and pleased to announce that, from the month of May 2020, Exploring Exciting Texts (EET) will be run by KathaSiyah.
EET began with the idea of creating a space for critical and enriching conversations by engaging with artists, academics, thinkers and theorists to expand the discourse on creative and cultural processes, while keeping a piece of the text at the center of it. The themes we tackled included censorship, community engagement, digital humanities, philosophy, gender and sexuality, among many others. In August 2019, the curatorial reigns of the programme was handed over to Sunayana Premchander, a writer, director and also the Artistic Director of KathaSiyah, a theatre company she founded with Karen D’Mello in 2015. This shift in curatorial leadership, coupled with a newfound kindred spirit in Bangalore International Centre as a venue partner, opened up a completely new vision for the programme.
We felt it was important for this journey to continue, both for the nature of the programme and for its as-yet-unrealised potential. So, EET continues, but in a new avatar which will be managed and curated by Katha Siyah. This is the first time that we as a company are handing over a programme to another company and feel extremely lucky and proud that they agreed to shoulder this responsibility. We are certain that under this new leadership, the program will be fresher, bolder and will lead to exciting conversations!
Chanakya VyasArtistic Director – Indian Ensemble
About the Program
Exploring Exciting Texts, our reading programme continues to go from strength to strength. We have found an ideal venue partner in the British Council and every month sees interested faces – newcomers and old-timers – gather to read, explore and share. In December 2018, we completed our 15th edition and we have no intention of stopping anytime soon.
Over the year, we saw a diverse set of speakers who presented their readings and thoughts on varied topics which always led to stimulating discussions, often much longer than the readings themselves. Huge thanks to all the actors, readers and our audiences who have embraced and supported this program by engaging with it.
Exploring Exciting Texts 2.0, starting July 2019, over the next six months will look at histories and the archives. It looks at history as a collage of events that have been selected by people from whose perspective of the world is thus recorded, with their choices of what to include and exclude implicitly having the power to uplift and silence.
1. If one’s history isn’t recorded, did they ever exist?
2. How do bias and privilege create gaps in history making?
3. What are the other forms of documentation outside archives?
4. How do communities of different political histories perceive their absence in the memory of mainstream history?
Below are the details of the upcoming reading-discussions and the ones held in the past.
30th November’ 2019, Bangalore International Centre, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Theme: The Amazing Flabby-Breatsed Virgin and Other Sordid Tales – A reading of the female body in Indian medical textbooks.
A session by Ayesha Susan Thomas, Applied Theatre Practitioner
Ayesha read some parts of contemporary medical texts and look at the consequences of violence and misogyny codified in our health care systems.
A Textbook of Forensic Medicine in standard use across the country today, defines the breasts of a virgin as “hemispherical, firm, plump and elastic”, while that of a “deflorate” woman as “enlarged and flabby”. Texts spend entire chapters on How to Determine Female Virginity, how to identify a “false virgin” and explain with the help of a handy table that Rape is a biologically “natural” offence. According to these texts Lesbianism is akin to Bestiality and Masturbation is a sexual “perversion” in the same category as Necromancy.
25th October’ 2019, Bangalore International Centre, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Theme: Reading ‘Annihilation of Caste’ in 2019
A session by students and members of Savitri Ambedkar Cultural Forum (SACF) at Azim Premji University.
The Savitri Ambedkar Cultural Forum from the Azim Premji University will facilitate a reading of excerpts from Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste.’
In this session, the group will lead the discussion, illuminating the philosophical depth of the insights it provides. The discussion will also highlight the contemporary relevance of the text in 21 st century cultural political environment.
‘Annihilation of Caste’ is one of the most important texts of the 20th century – especially for India, as well as the South Asian population across the globe. It was supposed to be a speech at the Annual Conference of 1936, of the Jat Pat Todak Mandal (Society for abolition of the caste system). Babasaheb Ambedkar critically examines the arguments that support such an organization of the society and the fundamental fissures that it has created in the Indian social life.
Reading this text has been one of the most liberating acts for anyone who has faced exclusion or discrimination in India, and for that reason it draws us back to it time and again. We revisit it today asking how and why has a piece written over 80 years ago survived as one of today’s most relevant political texts?
30th August’ 2019, Bangalore International Centre, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Theme: Accessing Community Archives Through Song
A session by Shilpa Mudbi Kothakota & Adithya Kothakota
If you walk through Cubbon Park at 8 AM between Monday and Saturday, you might be able to find your way to Urban Folk Project by following the sound of Shilpa Mudbi singing at the top of her voice. Urban Folk Project archives folk art forms in Karnataka through its contemporary production based on Yellammanaata, a ritualistic overnight play hosted mostly during the Dussera season by lower caste Hindus around parts of Hyderabad, Karnataka and the Southern Maharashtra region.
Shilpa and Adithya, the creators of this project will give us a glimpse of their show as they take us through their process of archiving these forms. They’ll also talk of how the politics of a community are preserved and how they intersect with our urban sensibilities
27th July’ 2019, Bangalore International Centre, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Theme: Tracing the History of Tibet Through Personal Narratives
A session by Tenzin Tsundue
A nation under occupation is subject to dominance over its archives. Its history is controlled by the occupier, who dictates what is lost and what survives. How is Tibetan history and the history of Tibetan people written? In a political environment of exile and resistance, the archives are controlled by those in power. How does history survive the oppression and where are the archives? How will future generations of Tibetans understand their history?
19th Jan’ 2019, British Library, 5 pm
Theme: The Politics of National Language
A set of readings curated by Anjuman Literary Club on various facets of language, nation and its impact on the literature produced over the last 50 years. The texts that will be read will range from letters, excerpts from novels, poems, and essays.
16th February’ 2019, British Library, 5 pm
Theme: Vernacular to Vernacular Translation in Theatre
A lecture-demonstration session led by Dr. Vanamala Vishwanatah.
More details to follow soon.
January: Chanakya Vyas directed a reading of Satish Alekar’s Begum Barve.
February: Aruna Ganesh Ram directed a reading of Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information.
March: M.D. Pallavi and Bindhumalini presented their new work titled Threshold which looks at the musical journey of texts ranging across time, cultures and geographies exploring the question of gender from birth to liberation. This was presented in support collaboration with the British Council, as part of their International Women’s Day celebration.
April: Anuja Ghosalkar brought Drama Queen’s Reading Room, a dramatic reading of letters collected by Anuja Ghosalkar, from the various Reading Rooms hosted across India.
May: Chanakya Vyas directed a Hindi translation of Chinu Modi’s play Swapna Duswapna followed by texts collated from writings of Carl Jung, Susanne K. Langer and Sigmund Freud.
June: Mayura Baweja directed a reading of Mahashweta Devi’s Bayen along with excerpts from Deepika Arwind’s The Playwright is Dead, followed by a discussion on the dearth of women playwrights in India.
July: Spatica Ramanujam and Daya Sakrepatna directed a reading of excerpts from The Lesbian Pillow Book accompanied by a short performance of the play Shiva, directed by Daya Sakrepatna. This was followed by a discussion looking at lesbian identity from inside out.
August: Sathwik N.N. directed a reading of excerpts from Devanur Mahadev’s Edege Bidda Akshara and Riddles in Hinduism by B.R. Ambedkar followed by a discussion on the role that caste plays in the day-to-day understanding of our social fabric and how it manifests in different forms of social, political and cultural control. The discussion was moderated by Mr. Hulikunte Murthy.
September: Prof. Sundar Sarukkai presented a talk on the nature of philosophy using a section of Nagarjuna’s Mūlamādhymakakārikā.
October/November: Kafeel Jafri performed Dastangoi. He narrated the dastaan of Amar Aiyar fighting the Villain, Afraasiyab, who keeps sending his magicians to capture and kill Hamza. But Amar being a trickster, succeeds in defeating them one after the other. Every daastan is a narration of one or more of these confrontations and vivid descriptions of the place, characters and events.
December: Prof. Rashmi Devi Sawhney, Aditya Sondhi and Sultana Zena lead a session on how censorship plays out across different media, regions, historical periods and legal regimes, drawing upon texts ranging from film clips, play scripts, lists of cuts demanded by CBFC, public accounts of protagonists to excerpts from court judgements and legal Acts.
We would like to thank Space Untitled and British Council for their support and collaboration.
And our audiences who have engaged with us and embraced the program!