Tuesday, March 20, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Dalit cultural fete lacks zest


MADURAI, March 19, 2012
Dalit cultural fete lacks zest
D. Karthikeyan

It was a shadow of its past editions as it has become a ritual

The 18 edition of the Dalit Cultural Festival 2012 held here at the
United Christian School Grounds on Saturday was just a shadow of its
past editions as the festival which was widely seen as an effort to
culturally devalorize the codes of dominant cultural discourses became
more of a ritual.

Dalit activists and thinkers who were present at the venue and who had
been part of the festival since its inception feel that the political
vigour that was associated with the festival is waning during the
recent years.

Dalit arts and performances along with Dalit literature in the early
1990s were found to be an important ingredient in the 'Dalit
Renaissance' that formed the Post-Ambedkar Centenary where Dalit
parties started to flourish questioning the Dravidian parties
'inclusive politics myth' and questioned their own marginality
vis-à-vis on the political sphere.

The usual zest attached to the festival where various art forms and
musical expressions would interlace a pattern where a touch of
antiquity, anger and assertion used to flow and throw into confusion
the existing hierarchical modes of cultural representations were
palpably missing.

Still the festival saw hard-hitting drum beats and powerful echoes of
brass horns intertwined with tireless beating of Parai enthral the
audience who were also found to be less in numbers than the previous

A Dalit scholar, who is doing his PhD in Philosophy in Madurai Kamaraj
University said that, the working class art forms along with Marxist
literature had been a critical source towards the emancipation of the
working classes; likewise Dalit art forms were critical in bringing
social changes and this festival which had been an influential one in
the Dalit discourse is losing track.

The Dalit Kalai Vizha, which was seen as an effort to explore trends
of conscientisation, politicization and re-interpretation of a culture
aiming for a role reversal from a theoretical perspective is losing
momentum. The festival which was usually held throughout the night
till the next day at the grounds had to be shifted for the first time
indoors after 11 p.m. following pressure from the police department.

The performative activities such as dance, martial arts skills display
and theatrical productions and reading poetry formed the Dalit Kalai
Vizha. A reverential reference to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and his ideas and
the importance of Dalit unity was made through various forms including
lyrical rendition, dance performance, poetry reading and drama.

The songs sung and short skits performed there did send a strong
message where it basically depicted the outcome of the everyday life
struggles, about the work and the status of the oppressed in the
society. The folk performances included indigenous Dalit forms of
Tamil art like Parai Aatam, Kombu Isai, Periya Melam, Jimbla Melam,
Raja Rani Aattam, Jikkattam, Kaliyalattam, Karagattam, Kaavadiattam,
Naiyandi Melam, Mayilattam, Oyilattam, Thappatiattam, Sakkai Kuchi
aatam, Maatukombattam, Themmangu, Kummanguthu Aattam Magudiaatam and
Suliyalaatam which were performed by troupes from all over the State.

Awards were given to journalist Jeyarani and Sherin who run a non
governmental organization called Velicham for the marginalized
children. The event was organised by Dalit Resource Centre, Madurai. A
book titled Dalit Cartoons: A Journey towards Liberation was also
released on the occasion.


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