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‘Dark Things’: A Spaced Out Performance

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The work “Dark Things” materialized from an elective course in ‘Musical Theatre’, taught to MA Performance Studies in the School of Culture and Creative Expressions at AUD.

The recently held “Tenth Ambedkar Memorial Lecture” addressed by Homi K Bhabha appears to converge at various junctures with the “Dark Things”. The cry and silence at the beginning of the lecture through music, and in the inability to speak in the performance, flecks an exploration of the absent voices. It transports us to a scene of staging the absent and the voiceless.

Bhabha explains the Right to Movement as a fundamental freedom, inseparable from human rights. The exercise of which, according to Hannah Arendt, can be traced from the inception of human life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 in its Article 13 includes Right to Movement.

It seems that the biggest crisis in every democracy is of refugees and immigrants. The conception of a nation-state has imposed heavy lines, not only on the geographical boundaries but on humanity per say.

Suvir Kaul, in her essay Separation Anxiety: Growing Up Inter/National in Amitav Ghosh’s “The Shadow Lines” writes: “War against a common enemy ratifies boundaries and deepens the ideological and international oppositions necessary to mould an internally coherent national identity. It legitimizes the claim of the state to be the sole agent and authority of violence.”

The dilemma of a refugee in their identification with a nation to which they do not belong to anymore is frightening. Along with that, the fear that the new state could unleash the worst forms of cruelty on them legally because of their lack of membership/legal identity is another factor. Are human rights to be preserved only when one is affiliated to a membership of the state?

The play’s first scene portrays the refugees, devoid of any rights and vulnerable to state powers. In its vitality, the question Bhabha raises: Is any country interested in stateless people and finding about them?

It is depicted by tents, people with disembarked identities and a narration of the poem: “I saw people walk into the brightest nothing, What kind of night is this?” that echoes the plight of the crisis of the refugee.

Bhabha in his lecture contemplated the paradox of ‘Citizen in the Refugee and the Refugee in the Citizen’ present in Avinash Dolas’ short story “The Refugee”.

The polluted presence of the refugees is visible in the people from India’s lower castes. Most of them are known as ‘half-citizens’ or ‘partial citizens’. The performance includes not only the caste and refugee proximity but includes other oppressed sections too.

The feeling of ‘being nothing’ is not a condition peculiar to refugees but is present in the citizens too. These partial citizens have only peripheral access to the rights, which to Bhabha, is even more dangerous. I believe that this is where the crux of the performance is situated. The paradoxical citizen is portrayed in the manual scavengers who live in equally bad conditions. Along with them, workers who are kept under degrading and laborious conditions, and the woman who in any condition are the first casualty to be seized of any dignity or right, face the same situation.

It is not likely for an audience to actually see a JCB excavator in a performance. Such incorporations simply break the conventions of the material limitations of a stage performance. However, in my opinion, the real transformation was of the space. The entire stage was converted with the help of props and a few performers. These tactics actually helped expand the scope of performances and spaces and provided the enactment with a liquidity and flow.

The performance uses various properties to depict the homelessness, which could be institutionalised as well as forced upon. The literal display of a huge hammer iterates the act of irrecoverable and mass damages being caused by acts of killings, lynching, mob violence and wars. Also, to me, it portrays the routine legal black holes which creates a legal void for such performatives to occur.

Homi Bhabha’s concern is mostly with the level of destruction, but his horror is also ingrained in the contingency of the future. The anxiety of the unknowability of the future for him, should be the impetus for committing ourselves towards a movement. This movement is not only about extending solidarity with the oppressed, but also to construct propositions for the future.

In other words, we should at least be thinking of ourselves as we could be at that position in the future. The brilliance of music further supports the performances and leave a haunting memory in the minds of the viewer.

The performance was based on a script for an “Oratorio” by Ari Sitas, and Purav Goswami has created the composition for the performance. The Musical Theatre cohort, was created under the guidance of Anuradha Kapur, Deepan Sivaraman and Sumangala Damodaran.

There were a total of twenty performers (graduate and current students of the School of Culture and Creative Expressions) and few workers who operated the small tempo, JCB Excavator and nitrogen balloons. The musical distinction is to be credited to Chandran Veyattummal from Kerala and Reza Khota from South African.

The performance on April 18, 2018, was the opening show. There is another show on April 19, 2018, in the same venue ‘Social Science Block Parking lot, Kashmere Gate Campus, AUD’ at 7:30 pm. Entry free.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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