Saturday, June 22, 2024

Depicting the plight of Rohingyas through art

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Hyderabad-based theatre and film group ‘B studio’ organised a movement-based performance titled ‘Floating Bodies’ by Techno Gypsie Production at Phoenix Arena, Hyderabad.

The movement-based performance explored the non-narrative and non-dramatic ways to engage with the selected photograph of Rohingya refugees. The performance elaborated on the possibility of movement, stillness, and soundscape. To date, the group has performed in five shows in Kerala and is now traveling outside Kerala with this performance.

The performance shows how an environment where water and land meet is an estuary. A refugee boy who doesn’t know swimming enters with a yellow plastic oil container to an unknown space from crossing the river. He experiences fear, helplessness, and hope here.

A photographer enters with his still camera and captures the moments of the boy. They both slowly engage with their vibes, activities, movements, and little chats. Sudden silences and unchoreographed stillness are there. Helplessness, sighs, and indifference are questioned here. Time expands. In this performance, a movement artist and a photographer explore the possibilities of bodies with their personal experiences. A sound artist also accompanies them with soundscapes. They perform the content in a parallel way. The performance uses the possibilities of body, materials, water, space, sound, time, and technologies of photography. Two bodies, two languages, two geographies, and two identities meet here.

Being a refugee or a migrant becomes painful and it always questions one’s identity. The performance was conceptualised by Abheesh Sasidharan, a practitioner and an independent scholar in the field of contemporary performance. Taking us through the concept and the message that he and his team tried to convey through the performance, he said, “It was in 2017, the photograph of Rohingya refugees who crossed the Naf River with a yellow palm oil can in an estuary became the inspiration for this performance. It disturbed me many nights and the photograph became a center of movement or deciding my activities one day.

Then I started to think about this performance to express my worries. As a performance practitioner, I was very much rational and always used to plan pre-production work with a logical design. But many of my activities became unfinished like unfocused photographs or quick flashlights. I stopped once for a long time. But sometime back in 2022, this creative performance collective emerged in an organic way .”

Furthermore, he continued, “I followed an unplanned organic process for this performance with collective rehearsals, travels, food, rest, and innovative moments. Unexpected moments became vantage points for the performance like the arrival of the yellow palm oil can which was an unexpected moment for us. We explored the content and form from the photograph and through performance process gatherings. That became the structure of the performance and it emerged in a new way after every show.”

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