It was a powerful and vibrant celebration at CADALFEST – Celebrating Adivasi and Dalit Arts and Literature Festival in Hyderabad last evening. Nov 27th 2022 at Lamakaan. The uniqueness of this event was women artists across all the communities being centre stage in this creative festival , resisting caste and all other forms of discrimination and social exclusion, through countercultural expression and narratives. Love as core, to counter the normalisation of the culture of hate, violence and othering , was the warp and weft of the diverse performances.
‘Humein Chahhiye Ulfath Ulfath‘– an original song in Urdu via a creative collaboration between the Shaheen singers and composer/pianist Nirvan Athreya with lyrics by Jameela Nishat set the tone for the evening with everyone singing along at the end:
‘ We need love to counter hate and break the false barriers of religion and caste. Nature is under attack, war has been declared and we must act fast. We will breakdown borders, to realise our dream of peace and justice in this land.’
Joopaka Subhadra’s poems ‘Kongu’ and ‘Avva’ powerfully described the emotions of pain, anger, resilience and resistance experienced as Dalit women and mothers.
Transitioning then to the passionate entry of the Jai Jangu Bai Adivasi women’s collective on stage, who sang fearlessly about their assertion to their territories, forests, land, water, seeds, food, culture and knowledge.
Moving onto Jameela Nishat who rendered her poetry in Urdu ’Mere chehre pe likha’ and ‘Hum utthenge ‘– we will rise! , with an English translation by Uma Damodar.
The evening concluded with “Idi inthe na ? ‘ , directed by Madhoo and performed by the Dalit-Bahujan and Muslim youth and elders of the Satyashodhaka Yuvajan Sangham, Telangana.
The forum chosen by the spectators was the inter-caste love scene. The spect-actor who stepped in was Gogu Shyamala , who responded to the couple : ’yes it has been written that castes cannot marry and women bear the responsibility of this. It’s written in the Manudharma shastra’ .
Girl: “ but that is not in the Indian Constitution !’
Shyamala: ‘ you are correct . It was written years ago; way before the Constitution, and still holds sway on people’s minds.
Girl: “ but why should they follow that?”
Shyamala: “ you and we and all of us, will have to educate our people about this falsehood so that they change!” .
Madhoo asked the spectators ‘those of you who agree with the suggestion please raise your hands? ‘ – the entire audience had their hands up.
The evening was beautifully curated by Sagari Ramdas from Kudali. Deep gratitude to Shaheen Womens Resource and Welfare Association for inviting Yakshi and Kudali to collaborate in CADALFEST. We are inspired to continue such counterculture dialogues.
Thanks to Anil G for his camera work; thanks to Mrinalini Nazanat for production support, and Peddalu Mandli, Vijay , Veeresham and Gautami thanks for logistics support.