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RANGOLI

Kala Kahani’s Magazine

South Asian Arts and Literature

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www.kalakahani.co.uk

Spring 08


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Charnwood Arts 31 Granby Street Loughborough Leicestershire LE11 3DU 01509 821035 www.kalakahani.co.uk

Editor and Writer Raakhee Modha raakhee.modha@kalakahani.co.uk

Project Manager Rebecca Abrahams rebecca.abrahams@charnwood-arts.org.uk

Research Assistant Nalini Solanki nalini.solanki@kalakahani.co.uk

Technical Designer/Publisher Manuela De Castro nela@gatafunho.com

Technical Support Anthony Parks itsupport@charnwood-arts.org.uk

Photographer/Editing Assistant Front Cover and All Candle Images Kajal Nisha Patel kajspice@gmail.com

The views expressed by contributors to Kala Kahani’s Rangoli magazine are not necessarily those of the staff or trustees of Charnwood Arts

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Kala Kahani is a Charnwood Arts project funded by Arts Council East Midlands. Charnwood Arts is an independent community organisation and a registered arts and educational charity (number 505977). The work of Kala Kahani is the promotion and appreciation of specifically South Asian arts and literature. All text, articles and images submitted for the Kala Kahani’s Rangoli magazine are the property of individual authors and no part of this magazine may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors or Charnwood Arts.

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CONTENTS 04-07

A Forum with the Editor

08-10

Poetry- Echoes from Anahata Selected Works of Raakhee Modha

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Roving Reporter’s Literary Review Contemporary South Asian Literature - Fiction or Revelation?

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Quivering Peacock Feathers & Crazy Coconuts A Review of an Eclectic Performance by the Sidi Goma Tribe

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Author’s Corner- Interviews with Shahrukh Husain -The Virago Book of Witches Gautam Malkani -Londonstani Shiromi Pinto -Trussed Preethi Nair -The Colour of Love

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Photography - Satyaprakash Kajal Nisha Patel

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Scouting Local Talents A Writer’s Journey with Kirti Joshi and Sarfraz Ahmed

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Hot Topics Achieving Real Diversity in the Arts World by Amit Popat

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60 Years Since the Partition of British India Local Children Perform Interpretations of this Emotive Event

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The Noble Sage Art Gallery in London South Indian Contemporary Art with Jana Manuelpillai

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Kala Kahani Recommends Links Kal ki Kala - Forthcoming Features The Art of Tomorrow

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A FORUM WITH THE EDITOR Editor’s Greeting “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” George Bernard Shaw Following the success of Kala Kahani, I find great pleasure in introducing you to its supplementary magazine “Rangoli”. Kala Kahani is extending its current platform to chronicle unique journeys and bring to light underexposed, raw South Asian talent. I have marked the opening edition with a burning flame to symbolise the path to higher knowledge – a truth which some of our featured artists have dedicated their lives towards. This vast, hub of talent has inspired us to form an accessible space to innovate the imaginative senses of a wider, discerning audience. We speak to Amit Popat, Diversity Advisor at London’s University of Arts, to learn whether variety currently exists in the arts diasporas and steps needed to support this multifaceted concept.

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This edition contains literary reviews and interviews with well known authors Shahrukh Husain, and Preethi Nair, alongside emerging writers Gautam Malkani (Londonstani) and Shiromi Pinto (Trussed). Supported by Kala Kahani’s Writers’ Development Programme, winner of 2007 Penguin Decibel Prize, Kirti Joshi talks to us about her piece on immigration, whilst spirited poet Sarfraz Ahmed unravels his new offering “Stab the Pomegranate”. Donned in their royal blue peacock feathers and head dresses, the Sidis of Gujarat mesmerise audiences with their culturally eclectic and sublime performance. Do not despair if you missed it, as we will take you through this divine experience with our words. Just 28 years young, entrepreneur Jana Manuelpillai translates his dreams into reality and sets his sights on London with the opening of its first South Indian contemporary art gallery. Armed with his vision, integrity and undeterred tenacity, Jana unveils “The Noble Sage”. Following a driven passion to fulfil what she considers to be her ethical duty; Kajal Nisha Patel initiated a lifechanging voyage to India. One year on, she continues to explore the nature of truth behind what she describes as

05 a transcendental epiphany. Awakened by her photographic calling, Kajal expresses a profound understanding of her observations with a deeply moving, optimistic sensibility. Each picture renders heartfelt emotion in cinematic style as she introduces a painful topic with remarkable probity and hope. 2007 welcomed celebrations for 60 years of Indian Independence from British colonial rule, but what price did India really pay for her ‘freedom’? “60 Years since the Partition of British India” is a poignant perspective, discovering the journey of understanding and forgiveness. Through workshops, school children embody these emotions and perform their interpretations to an audience. Victims of the Partition recount painful memories from the inconceivable and brutal separation. “Rangoli” mirrors unique South Asian flair, representing a blended palette of rich colours, textures and emotions; to stir and awaken our inner perceptions of their kala (art) this fusion is a continuation of their creative evolution. “Rangoli” humbly welcomes you, the artist, writer and audience to participate by making suggestions and providing feedback. In return, we will provide a dynamic space for mutual exchange.

Inspire us to inspire you!!!

Raakhee Modha EDITOR

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Questions to the Editor

Q: Do you feel that South Asian writers are expected to write about their cultural background, issues and experiences rather than genres of their choice? Surely this is an exotic marketing tool for agents rather than legitimate work of note? Alex Sackey, Ghana

© Kajal Nisha Patel

Raakhee: It is always difficult to fulfill the precise expectations of a publisher as they may or may not connect with the writer’s style. My perception is that creativity comes from within and to compromise its expression can ‘dilute’ the talent. I believe commercial pressures exist, such as the popularity and marketability of exotic genres, and put new writers in a difficult position. The onus is on them to exercise their creativity with integrity so that their work will be recognised for its true merit. However they may still choose to write towards commercial incentives. I will give the example of Jhumpa Lahiri. I do not believe that her prize winning novel The Namesake was written with a mass audience in mind. I felt as if the subject was very close to Jhumpa’s heart. Could she have produced the same quality of writing if the choice of genre was dictated to her? Are we, as readers, willing to take accountability for a lack of diversity in our book stores? I would like you to share your opinion with me on this subject... Q: There is an abundance of work by Asian writers that has been translated from their native language into English. Do you feel that the ‘essence’ of the work is lost in translation, especially where poetry is concerned? Prakash Mistry, Rugby Raakhee: I believe this to be true in poetry. In a just few words, a well written poem can transport the reader to another dimension. If those words cannot be adequately expressed in another language then there will be a discrepancy in the experience of the poetry; it will not befall on the reader as the writers intended their work to. Let me use the analogy of travelling abroad. The heat always ‘feels’ more intense as if its source is different. We may reach the same temperatures in England with the same sun, yet the heat seems of a different nature and is somehow less ‘exciting’. Each writer, whether they are South Asian or otherwise, is enriched by a melting pot of conditions, cultural experiences and values all of which have unique vibrations. I believe to provide the most accurate depiction of the work, these inimitable gestures and forms of expression need to be experienced even if the language of interpretation is different. For me, this is not an issue as long as the translator does not claim authentic preservation of the work.

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Q: In the age of supporting environmentally friendly products, do you think literature will only be available electronically in the future whilst books will become a thing of the past? Sanjay Modha, East Midlands Raakhee: I am not sure if computers are environmentally friendlier than books but I find ebooks to be uncomfortable for my eyes after a short time and I am no technophobic! I can read for hours if I have a paper book and it is more tangible. Yes e-books save paper but at what cost? My eye sight? I am an environmentally conscious individual but there should be no trade offs in the solution. Regardless of what I feel, our generation is becoming more technophilic. Patterns and trends indicate that e-books will become more popular whilst our libraries become museums! Q: I have debated modern perceptions of the ‘Kama Sutra’ with my colleagues, on numerous occasions as it often depicted as pornography. However, it is also recognised as a piece of credible literature, portraying a taboo subject with sensitivity and realism. What are your thoughts on this? Amisha Mistry, Wembley Raakhee: I would be interested to know how these profound scriptures have been labelled “pornography” and in what context. Did you know that only a portion of the Kama Sutra, written by Mallanaga Vatsyayana, is actually devoted to the art of love making and in the original text there were no diagrams? The written work details the art of making love to your partner in a sphere of mutual trust, collective pleasure and deep respect for one another; a meeting of the body, mind and soul. This union is symbolic of Individual Energy merging with Divine Energy and the process is natural within the different goals (purusharthas) of life; dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (desire) and moksha (liberation). In no way does the Kama Sutra advocate promiscuity, which I feel is the perception of these scriptures, in my western setting. However I am not an expert on the texts so to those interested in this debate... I would advise reading the material in its original context in order to discuss the Kama Sutra, with respect to the writer. Q: I enjoy reading books by South Asian authors with an avid interest in new releases or emerging authors. My local book store catalogues all the fiction together making it difficult and frustrating to find South Asian authors. Do you feel that authors who represent ethnic minority groups should be shelved separately or can you suggest how to find what I am looking for more easily? I have tried several Internet search engines which don’t really help. Hardeep Bhachu, Leeds Raakhee: It is great to hear that you are interested in South Asian writing Hardeep! I find that local libraries are really good at embracing diverse genres of new writers, making them an ideal place to begin. I also feel we should use our libraries more, as they provide economical freedom to read material and decide which authors you like. A good library will also put in touch with the right people/places if you want to expand your interest in reading, writing or learning. It is a little trickier to find what you are looking for in book stores, as best sellers are often grouped together. Other books tend to be shelved in alphabetical order (if they are popular enough to be In stock) - nevertheless there is no harm in asking the staff for assistance. Updates on new books by Contemporary South Asian authors and noted classical works are available for free by subscribing to the following websites: http://wordpress.com/tag/south-asian-writers/ http://sasialit.org/

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POETRY- ECHOES FROM ANAHATA Selected Works of Raakhee Modha Words | Raakhee Modha

Raakhee was born in Madagascar. She moved to Southall, in West London, where her British education began. In the late 80’s her family settled in Loughborough, where she currently resides. She embarked on a successful IT career until a life changing event directed her towards the practice of Yoga; awakening her inner light. In pursuit of this deeply cathartic experience, Raakhee travelled to India, where she trained as a Teacher of Yoga (www.sattva-yoga. co.uk). At present she teaches Yoga classes and works at the local hospital. She also writes poetry and is the editor and writer for Kala Kahani’s Rangoli magazine.

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The Banks of Varanasi A bizarre and undigested feeling in Varanasi in March 2007, unlike anything I had felt before, transformed itself into this elaborate piece.

The Banks of Varanasi Silent Cries A painful experience in your life teaches you that you were prepared for everything but this moment.

Silent Cries

By the banks of Varanasi, morning dawns A cool breeze blows The Ganga flows Where life expires The Soul retires Bathers atone for their sins Worshipping the Shiva Linga By the banks of Varanasi, midday breaks Spectators sit and chat Piles of wood at every ghat ‘Ram nam satya hein’ they cry Funeral pyres pollute the sky The bereaved chant hymns Rusty boats carry pilgrims

Youth the age of perpetual abuse The naivety and the innocence lost Truly a sorrowful passage For which I am paying the cost Years of damage and despair Now manifest in this fragile shell Pushing against the wall of my limbs When will the pain end who can tell?

By the banks of Varanasi, night falls The arti bells ring The righteous sing Floating lamps serenade the river Cursing snakes slide and slither Echoes of the Sanskrit texts And prayers for merciful deaths

Each physical and mental scar engraved Conscious in every waking breath Felt in the slightest movement The mind is unforgiving and restless The result an imbalance of the mind Once a vibrant soul trying to break out But completely trapped and subdued Immersed in my cries I shout But no one hears, the silence feeds my pain And so the suffering will continue No cathartic experience is felt Leaving me wholly black and blue

By the banks of Varanasi, darkness looms Poverty still exists Hawkers still persist Sadhus with their dreadlock daze Tourists think they’re all the craze The night chill blows The Ganga flows By the banks of Varanasi by Raakhee Modha

by Raakhee Modha

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The Age of Darkness That famous saying ‘Your eyes are a window to your Soul’ triggered off a sombre slant on this view. Are our eyes always so transparent?

The Age of Darkness If my eyes are a window to my Soul Then what courageous light will penetrate the dark tinted barriers That stand before them? Like the solemn gates of a fortress Before a great battle The darkness, the birth of Shakespearian like tragedies Growing into the adult of stubborn obstacles Weighing heavily on this barricaded Soul by Raakhee Modha

The Age of Light All emotions/thoughts exist in duality, like a mirror of opposites hence The Age of Darkness cannot exist without The Age of Light!

The Age of Light If my eyes are a window to my Soul Then let Light of Truth penetrate the renouncing barriers That stand before them Like the rising sun Signalling the dawn of Pure Creation The radiance, the birth of New Beginnings Growing into the adult of Right Knowledge Releasing the shackles and liberating my Soul by Raakhee Modha

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ROVING REPORTER’S LITERARY REVIEW Contemporary South Asian Literature Words | Raakhee Modha

Fiction or Revelation?

The evening talk was held as part of the ‘India Now’, festival of India. Set in the Bishopsgate Institute of London, in the charismatic Grand Library, an audience of twenty or so budding writers, literary critics, students or perhaps friends of the acclaimed author Shahrukh Husain attended the soiree. She was asked to talk about translated South Asian writing, covering authors from India and the West. Two flourishing writers Shiromi Pinto and Gautam Malkani were invited to read extracts from their novels and discuss their views as they represented the latter part of the discussion. A brief synopsis of the history of South Asian literature was used to introduce the subject. The focus of this discourse was based on themes and styles used by South Asian writers, to create passionate and emotive works, which either resonated or incensed their readers. Shahrukh commenced on early South Asian vernacular writers, whose works were translated into common Indian and foreign languages. She mentioned Premchand, a Hindi and Urdu novelist, who was influenced by Indian nationalist struggles. This theme was echoed by Qurratulain Hyder, author of the acclaimed novel ‘Aag ka Darya’, originally written in Urdu. It was recently translated into English as ‘River of Fire’; In Urdu fiction this equals ‘A Hundred Years of Solitude’ in Hispanic literature.

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Hyder addressed the religious tensions between Muslims and Hindus before and after-Partition. She also tackled India’s difficulties during colonisation and the troubled times which proceeded after Independence. Shahrukh pointed out that the work did not necessarily cater to mass audiences but was a medium to express their political and social stance during this difficult period. Many writers were a part of the Indian Progressive Writers Association; a movement which used literature to express ideals of social up rise and justice. Saadat Hasan Manto, a South Asian Muslim literary figure, was also part of this movement and his Urdu works such as ‘Thanda Gosht’ later translated into English as ‘Cold Meat’, made him a controversial writer, touching on taboo subjects of sexual repression. Manto did not pander to mainstream conservative audiences and was therefore commercially unsuccessful; this contributed to his rather untimely demise which was common with early writers. Shahrukh moved onto talk about Indian writers, who write in English. (IWE). Mulk Raj Anand, a pioneer of IWE, reflected the social challenges faced by Indians in his literature and his work earned him international acclaim. His novels, ‘Coolie’ and ‘Untouchables’ explored issues that he felt had been overshadowed by a foreign colonialism such as the layers of colonialism, created by barriers of culture and tradition which exist within Indian society. Shahrukh contrasted Anand’s style with author R.K. Narayan. Narayan’s most famous novel ‘The Guide’ illustrated his simplistic style, which made his work accessible to the masses. He unravelled, the story thread by thread to draw his audience into the experience. Shahrukh detailed the story before showing a clip from

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012 the screen adaptation. Raju, a tourist guide falls in love with a dancer, Rosie. He ‘guides’ her away from an unhappy marriage and transforms her into a successful dancer breaking all the social ‘norms’ of the Indian community in which they live. When the relationship turns sour Raju delves into a life of gambling and alcohol. He is accidentally mistaken as a saint (swami) by a group of illiterate villagers who turn to him for salvation during a spell of drought. In a bid to liberate himself from the burden of this lie Raju tries to convince them he is just an ordinary man and a former convict but the villagers see this as a test of their faith and refuse to believe him. Raju begins his internal transformation through this experience. The story of ‘The Guide’ illustrates Raju’s spiritual evolution in accordance with Hindu philosophy; the unhappiness of living in a world driven by material gains and liberation through renunciation. Amit Chaudhuri, the author of The Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature, commented that it was R.K. Narayan’s simplicity as a writer that made him accessible to everyone but the culture itself was not accessible as it had to be experienced. In contrast, the style of magical realism was often used by writers to steer away from pure English, giving the reader a microcosm of India and the example Shahrukh gave of this style was ‘The Mistress of Spices’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. In the next clip the audience were given a glimpse of Anita Desai’s screen adaptation of her book ‘In Custody’. The short clip highlights hardships of a family in rural India. The timidity of the college lecturer’s wife is evident. She fulfils her role as a mother and wife but not as a woman in her own right. She feeds her young son and hurriedly packs him off in an overcrowded tonga, a horse pulled taxi. When she converses with her husband Deven,

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she appears to be frustrated because he has an unquestioned authority in their relationship. In the next frame a colleague at work tries to paint Deven a dreamlike picture of migrating to America, a world of many riches, to which Deven replies sarcastically “What would Indians do in America teach Hindi to Americans?” His sarcasm carries an air of despondency adding to the dissatisfaction of his situation.

and consumerist culture. Shiromi Pinto on the other hand felt that the difficulties arose from pigeonholing authors under the category of ‘British Asian’. This categorisation of a complex and variegated group fails to serve its purpose because it is an unfair representation of a diverse community. Her novel ‘Trussed’ reflects intricate relationships and experiences between characters trying to discover their true identity.

The three writers fused together themes of religion, class, gender, culture, poverty and oppression with emotions of love, anger, injustice and despair. IWE’s created much anxiety within India and a sense of betrayal as many felt that the writers were exposing Indian culture and its problems globally.

The evening concluded with Shiromi Pinto reading an extract from her exciting novel ‘Trussed’ and a piece of work commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum called ‘Tiger Tiger Burning Bright’. She captivated the audience with her zealous style of writing. Gautam Malkani read from his first novel ‘Londonstani’ leaving most of the audience in hysterics. Both with their unique style of writing showcased their diversity as a contemporary generation of authors.

The discussion led on to more recent, successful literature, which dealt with broader themes of Indian identity, gender, cross-cultural issues, hardships of immigration, and class. Shahrukh highlighted that these issues are a reality to Jhumpa Lahiri, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for her novel ‘The Namesake’. These global themes were also covered in ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ by Kiran Desai who recently won the coveted Man Booker Prize 2006. Her mother, Anita Desai’s book ‘Feasting, Fasting’ (1999) contrasts attitudes towards food in America and India, but her recent novel ‘The Zigzag Way’ (2004), a story of selfdiscovery in Mexico, cemented her diversity as a fiction writer. Shahrukh involved two young authors who accompanied her to share their views on modern British Asian fiction. Gautam Malkani agreed that identity played an important part in his fiction but what appeared to be a cultural, religious or language issue actually came from concerns about gender

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South Asian Contemporary Literature - Fiction or Revelation? It is clear that excitement has been re-ignited. The surge in international interest for fiction by the diaspora of South Asian contemporary writers owe their success to the articulate and candid portrayal of broad issues such as gender, class, immigration, violence and identity. However some critics argue that the literature is tailored towards a Western market yet others claim it is the take-away quotient that appeals to a non-Asian audience. The literature covers a myriad of emotions and concerns which impact the world, regardless of emigrational status. As the reading circle anticipates new books to add to their list, one thing is for certain…this genre of literature certainly promises to keep critics and its broad spectrum of readers engaged in a vibrant debate for years to come.

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QUIVERING PEACOCK FEATHERS & CRAZY COCONUTS A Review of an Eclectic Performance

Words | Raakhee Modha

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the Sidi Goma Tribe

When an audience is introduced to the artists...“The Sidi Goma Sufi tribe from Gujarat (India), with black East Africans origins; who perform sacred devotional music”...one is not really sure of what to expect. A deep curiosity sets in and a child like anticipation bubbles within. So how does this apparently preserved community from the African-Indian subcontinent come to arrive in Loughborough? Charnwood Arts persuaded the Sidi Goma to take a detour from their UK tour, to mesmerise those who attended the evening.

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Historically, the Sidis were brought over to India as slaves, initially by Arab merchants in the 13th century, and later by European traders to serve the Maharajas and Nawabs. They retained their rituals and traditions of music and dance rooted in Sufism; a mystical tradition devoted to divine love and all aspects of this divinity. The tribe’s art is dedicated to Bava Gor, a black Sufi saint. The night begins with intensely fragrant incense enclosing a carpeted floor, which becomes a shrine, only to be entered barefoot. The musicians, a 12 piece act clothed in white kurta robes and caps, silently walk into the holy space and arrange themselves in a semi-circle. A zikr (prayer call) opens the evening’s procession. Gradually a coarse, melodic song complements the sound and beat of percussion instruments, hypnotising the spectators; who are induced into clapping their hands whilst they sway to the rhythmic music. In the midst of the performance, one by one the Sidis get up, take centre stage and start smiling and dancing in an animal-like manner. Each musician emanates a joyful charisma, adding another dimension to the already mystical ambience. Beaming with radiant smiles, singing with fervent passion, the rest of the seated tribe move their heads from side to side (seen in traditional classical Indian dancing) whilst their bodies sway effortlessly like sea waves. The chanting and ardent cries have a crescendo-like effect elevating the artists to a devotional plane. Retreating towards the back of the stage, without much commotion, the Sidis leave the crowd fixated on a lone musician twanging away at his malunga, a one stringed instrument.

015 015 An enraptured crowd listens to this East African descendent singing what may be understood as Urdu. What could be more surreal than that? The night is still young... A rustle of movement carries the rest of the Sidis, now attired in royal blue skirts, beautifully layered with striking peacock feathers and matching head dresses, back to the centre of the stage. The Sufis, with their faces decorated in swirling white patterns and lines, adorn the floor with fresh red rose petals. Intense singing ensues, whilst an ensemble of musicians heighten their wild antics with bird-like movements and energised dancing. In the midst of the excitement, a coconut is tossed in the air fixing the audience’s gaze. The repercussions of this act begin to dawn on their faces as the coconut comes hurtling down on the Sidi’s head.....if only the crowd had donned themselves in safety helmets! Astonishingly, it shatters into pieces covering the floor with water, demonstrating the strength the Sidis obtain from their unquestioning faith and worship. More crazy stunts and passionate dancing climaxes into uninhibited audience participation, as the crowd cast aside their shoes and eagerly join the Sidis in the holy space. The controlled yet chaotic energy elevates the tempo of the music and adds momentum to the heartfelt singing. The night concludes with an atmosphere of divine euphoria yet the overwhelmed audience is left craving for more... much more of this exalted state, which the Sufis have transported them to. As the Sidi Goma slowly disappear, the spectators are left deeply rejuvenated and enriched with remnants of rural classical India, fused with ancestral memories of tribal African Soul.

Kapa-Productions: http://www.kapaproductions.com/sidigoma/index.htm

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AUTHOR’S CORNER Interviews with Words | Rebecca Abrahams Interviews | Raakhee Modha and Rebecca Abrahams

Shahrukh Husain -The Virago Book of Witches Gautam Malkani -Londonstani Shiromi Pinto -Trussed Preethi Nair -The Colour of Love

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017 Shahrukh Husain Interview | Rebecca Abrahams

Shahrukh Husain

Shahrukh Husain was born in Pakistan in 1950. She travelled India extensively and now resides in London with her husband and two children. Shahrukh feels a sense of familiarity with the literature and religions from these countries, which have inspired her passion to write ‘Witches, Myths and Legends’. She writes fiction, nonfiction and screen plays for adults and children. Her most noted works to date are ‘Women Who Wear the Breeches’ (Anchor/Doubleday 1996) and ‘The Virago Book of Witches’ (1993). Her adaptation for Anita Desai’s film, ‘In Custody’ was nominated for a BAFTA award in 1994. Currently, she is working on a moving, historical screenplay for Gurinder Chadha of Bend It Films, whilst completing a series of mythological books for children. Alongside her writing career, Shahrukh is a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist, specialising in trans cultural work. She also finds time to balance her family life and take care of her middle aged Chihuahua. www.shahrukhhusain.com

R: How do you find time to write when you are so busy with other things? SH: “It’s like breathing – just an involuntary brain function. No, really, though, when I’m working on a commission, pretty much all my work since 1983 has been commissioned, then I’m committed to a deadline. I’m sporadic and write in bursts but I keep going and when I fall behind I have a massive spurt. My training as a journalist, years ago, stands me in excellent stead – deadlines are graven in stone. I’m lucky writing comes easily to me – so frantic last minute work isn’t a problem. But I’d say my secret is that I don’t wait for the proverbial ‘large chunks of regular time’. I write on buses, while the kettle’s boiling and while I’m waiting for someone to arrive for an appointment or delivery – some times in a pocket of time as little as 5 minutes. It’s amazing how much you can accumulate with a few of those. You know, you write at optimum level for only 10 minutes at a time and you can write as many as 200 words in five minutes if you don’t stop to correct? Also, it keeps your brain stimulated and immersed in your material.”

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R: Did you have any literary models when you started writing?

SH: “None that were conscious. I just get an idea and if it pushes hard enough, it writes itself and finds its own voice. On the other hand, I’m quite influenced by the rhythms and textures and even some sayings from my mothertongue, Urdu. I’m talking about prose fiction. Screenplays are different. Having said that, I started writing very early and I have a horrible feeling I was emulating the writer of the moment – definitely something called Evangeline which was mimicking Jane Austen and something else which was ultra-modern after I’d read Richard Church’s poem which contained the line: ‘The throb-throb of the mixer spewing out concrete’. It’s a bit cringe-worthy but at 11, it’s good practice to emulate the masters in the process of discovering what comes naturally to you.”

R: Who are your favourite writers? SH: “For some reason, this question always bewilders me. I guess I have favourite books but I’m not sure about favourite writers. Some of my recent favourites have been ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini; ‘Hanna’s Daughters’ by Marianne Fredriksson. ‘Watch me Disappear’ by Jill Dawson; a re-reading of an old classic ‘The Leopard’ by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ is an enduring favourite and I like Isabel Allende’s ‘The House of the Spirits’. It feels as if it could easily be about India.”

R: Do you find writing therapeutic? SH: “Absolutely. A bit like getting in the bath – safe, alone, immersed and in control of myself and my surroundings. I hear the words I’m writing so it feels like listening to a story, the rhythms of language, the rise and fall of thoughts flowing onto paper. But of course there are times when I write under pressure when it all feels very hard and I have to keep stopping – checking emails is an excellent displacement activity. When I’m starting a new book, I tend to do a lot of domestic sorting-out and decluttering – usually I’m a lousy house-keeper, and I take lots of extra showers. By the way, do other writers tell you how fertile their imagination gets in the bath? I’ve had some of my best break-throughs while soaking or showering. Lowered inhibition, I guess. It allows through the creativity.”

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R: Is writing for a film script very different from writing a book?

SH: “Very different. It’s much more technical. It involves thinking and planning because you are writing to a spec and for someone else, from the beginning. You have to consider your director/producer/editor write from the word go which makes it a collaborative effort. It’s a bit like presenting a project idea or in the worst circumstances a work exercise - it really can feel like that when you’re unsure of yourself. Then you have always to keep the likely audience in mind, remember the rules of genre and work to a basic structure. I used to balk against it at one time but of course it’s vital to have an internal framework to fall back on. The rules of structure, of style, of narrative, of thematic issues and, of course, character are the same but they feel a bit crass when you first start writing for the screen, because they are defined overtly and followed consciously rather than instinctively. But then millions are spent on movies and the film-makers need to be reasonably sure they’ll get a decent product before they decide to invest in the writer – even though writer’s are at the bottom end of their budget. I find it exciting because it hones the skills and gives me a yardstick to measure the weaknesses and strengths of my project. Fiction is less demanding in that way – but then it’s a bit more scary because I’m never sure I’ve succeeded. I’m writing a novel at the moment and I find, when I’m floundering a bit, I instantly start to apply screenwriting strategies. I think it works as a diagnostic strategy but I’m not sure I’d like to approach the whole novel from that perspective. The beauty is to be able to disguise your inner structure so that your piece is free-flowing and the acts, turning points etc are invisible except for their impact.”

R: Are your own life experiences reflected in your writing? SH: “Certain reactions, observations and feelings, yes. Occasionally something autobiographical – but essentially, I’m working with fiction, so I invent. Of course, it’s an occupational hazard of being a writer that people assume you’re writing about yourself. When I wrote Erotic Myths and Legends, many people assumed I was describing my own bedroom experience. Do people forget that writers have powers of imagination and observation and the skills to articulate them? It’s quite funny, really. If I write about a killer, it doesn’t mean I’m one myself – or that I have homicidal instincts. But everyday stuff does come through, without a doubt. The reaction to an event, types of pain, sensation, emotion etc. that I’ve experienced.”

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R: ‘Witches, myths and legends’; Why?

SH: “I believe that myths and legends are at the core of human experience. Whenever I look for a paradigm for human behaviour, I find it in myth – I include legends, folklore and fairytales. And an answer to whichever dilemma I’ve sought to resolve. It’s all there, preserved through the centuries. Traditional tales are filled with clues to our spiritual nature, our behavioural tendencies and our instincts. They fuel our natural tendency to tell stories, to let go of our imaginations, to allow us to open our minds to infinite possibilities. They bring magic into our lives – the real magic of daily life. And witches in particular? They are the wilful, the independent and the determined, forced into the margins of society – and they have survived in every culture and on every continent. They have a powerful grip on our minds despite having such a bad press over the centuries. They are the misunderstood – they beguile me, enchant me, impress me and show me many things about the perceptions of the dispossessed and those of others towards people like them. We’ve cast them as our ‘shadow selves’ but very often, they are women of light.”

R: At heart you are a storyteller, weaving tales and firing the imagination. Why is that? SH: “I was lucky to grow up listening to stories – there were stories and mini-tales to cover everything! I loved it. We South Asians come from a story-telling culture – it’s one of the few homogenous traits present throughout the subcontinent’s many, different kinds of lifestyles and people. Of course stories speak across cultures, beyond language. Myths embody universal human concerns. In my selections for Virago, I’ve chosen a theme for each book, such as ‘Women who Wear the Breeches’ and found stories from all around the world in which the heroine dressed as a man. I’m passionate about celebrating and highlighting that universality. At the same time the nuances, the structures of the stories, the narrative, tell us about the different contexts to which each one belongs. Again this reflects the human world. There are universals through which we all connect – we share certain basics – other than that we have wonderful cultural variety. Imagination is the spark that makes our lives fulfilling, that gives us hope and motivation. Stories ignite the spark.”

R: How do you feel when you have finished writing a book? SH: “Ambivalent – both delight and a sense of loss. Also, l feel relief – the labour pains are over and I’ve delivered my baby. But there’s also a sort of emptiness. The intensity and impatience of the previous weeks is gone and I won’t hold the baby for a few months yet. But my brain buzzes with ideas and very soon those ideas and other commitments gush in to fill the hiatus.”

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Gautam Malkani

© Mark Pringle

Interview | Raakhee Modha

Gautam Malkani

Gautam Malkani was born in 1976 and grew up around Hounslow. His first job was selling low budget stereos and electrical goods at Tandy Electronics on Hounslow High Street. Gautam finished college and went to University of Cambridge, to study Social and Political Sciences, whilst working on the student newspaper. He began his writing career in 1997 as graduate trainee editor of the Financial Times, Creative Business pages. ‘Londonstani’ is his first novel, and was short-listed for ‘Writer of the Year, British Book Award 2007’. Gautam lives in London with his wife. www.gautammalkani.com

R: How would you describe your style of writing? GM: “‘Londonstani’ is obviously written in a version of desi rudeboy slang so I guess I’ve been labelled a vernacular writer. But the point about the language is that it’s middleclass mummy’s boys pretending to be ghetto, so the language is a performance. The style of writing therefore functions as a symbol of the characters’ unauthentic ethnic identities – Hardjit, for example, is pretending to be black. The language also functions as a symbol for the characters’ disassociation from mainstream ‘Englishness’, but what I was mainly trying to do with it was look at the idea of identity as a performance that draws as much on present day sources such as MTV Base as it does on so-called ‘ethnic roots’. So, in that sense, I’m not sure if the style ‘Londonstani’ is written in says anything about my style of writing. Nevertheless, I can’t see myself ever getting away from this idea of language and identity as a performance rather than something inherent or authentic and so that will probably determine my writing style if I ever really develop one.”

R: What inspires you to write? GM: “Padma Lakshmi, Marilyn Monroe – and I suppose Kate Moss if you can describe Pete Doherty as a poet. No seriously, it’s an impossible question to answer – the thing is, I can’t not write. It’s like an affliction – but a welcome one. On a more noble note, I’m really worried by the fact that so few young Asian guys actually enjoy reading novels - and given that reading novels or watching lengthy plays are pretty much the only ways to develop empathy skills, it’s nice to be in a position to try and do something about that.”

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R: Do you have a favourite South Asian author?

GM: “I can’t pick a favourite. I enjoy reading Hanif Kureishi, Hari Kunzru, Nadeem Aslam, Mohsin Hamid, Kiran Desai, Monica Ali, Niven Govinden, Salman Rushdie – basically, anyone who’s written something beautiful about being South Asian in a big urban city in the West.”

R: What are the issues facing British Asian people? GM: “In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the stereotypical British Asian youth was untroubling, studious, conscientious and even subservient. We tried to fit in by being quintessentially English. But by the early 1990s, we started asserting our ethnic identity, which we blended with a kind of gangsta rap persona. That entailed not just being a bit more streetwise than we had previously been, but also volunteering for segregation. One by one, all my Asian friends suddenly embraced this new persona. On the one hand it was positive because Asian kids were suddenly a force to be reckoned with and clearly had more self-esteem than before. But on the other hand it was distressing because, as mainstream society became the enemy, so did the education system. As a result, a lot of my friends started shooting themselves in the foot with respect to school. Also, because we borrowed so much from rap culture, we ended up blending the misogyny, materialism and hyper-machismo inherent in traditional Asian culture with the misogyny, materialism and hyper-machismo of hip-hop culture. The way these two cultures reinforce the worst aspects of each other became a key strand of my book. What was really fascinating about the research behind the book was that this new assertive ethnic identity clearly wasn’t simply a response to racial discrimination or economic deprivation – often these were middle-class guys pretending to be ghetto youth. Most of the people I interviewed – like the characters in the book – were either Sikh or Hindu, but even religion wasn’t as salient as I expected. So it ended up being a study of hyper-masculinity rather than race, ethnicity or religion. For a lot of guys the struggle wasn’t with society but with something much closer to home – a struggle with overbearing mothers who would rather their sons remain boys. But it’s really difficult to answer this question succinctly because it’s what my university dissertation was about – you can see a better synopsis on my website.”

R: What advice would you give to Indian authors? GM: “Don’t even think about being ‘representative’ of your community – that’s the job of non-fiction and documentaries, not fiction. For example, if readers and audiences believe that just because you’ve written about an Asian wife beater, that means all Asian men are wife beaters, the problem is the reader’s lack of education or perspective and you cannot and must not be responsible for that. If you start thinking you must somehow ‘represent’ your community then it’s no longer art – it becomes closer to advertising. Also, never waste time

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R: What advice would you give to Indian authors? Cont.

trying to be business-like in managing your personal admin. Life’s too short to waste time looking for cheaper car insurance or a better mobile phone tariff. These things kill the left side of your brain. Beyond that, I can’t really improve on the advice I’ve taken from reading interviews with other authors – Mark Twain said the secret to writing is simply attaching the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair. Jack Kerouac said always write what you want. Hemingway said you should remember the first draft of anything is shit. I would underline Kerouac’s because it seems particularly relevant for ethnic minority writers.”

R: What inspired the title - ‘Londonstani’ ? GM: “I think London is important insofar as it provides the characters with a metropolitan identity. I was really interested in the way that metropolitan identities can transcend other identities in the same way that your national identity can supplant your ethnic identity or your racial identity or your religious identity. So in some situations nationalism becomes your ethnic identity. But I was interested in the way that in a kind of utopian world, a metropolitan identity can supplant all of those identities. For example, you don’t have nationalism with a metropolitan identity - that’s why I use the word utopian. And that’s a good thing, or at least that strikes me as a good thing, because there’s a chance there for real racial integration. I mean, that’s what London does - people see themselves as Londoners and therefore everyone’s allowed to be in London and therefore there’s no dominant race in London: everyone’s a Londoner. And because the metropolitan identity is a very new identity, there’s less that’s inherent to it. Even with a New Yorker - the archetypal metropolitan identity what actually constitutes a New Yorker as opposed to an American goes beyond just liberalism and open-mindedness … the actual stuff that makes up the New York identity changes all the time. That’s the thing with metropolitan identities: there’s nothing inherent or intrinsic about it. And so it lends itself really well to subcultural identities - the kind of identity the characters in the book have, because they are performing their identity and reinventing their identity and making it up as the go along and borrowing. They’re not taking their identity from their roots. Hardjit might pretend that he’s sourcing his identity from his ethnic roots or whatever, but he’s not. He’s sourcing it from Hollywood, Bollywood, MTV Base and ads for designer fashion brands.”

R: Could you explain the three divisions – Paki, Sher and Desi. GM: “Over the past 15 years British Asian youth have moved from victims to aggressors to co-existing with mainstream society thanks to our desi youth subculture. The names of the three parts reflect that. Of course the characters themselves do not go through this 15-year process in the 10-month course of the book - but the plot twists mean the reader’s experience of them goes through this process.”

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Shiromi Pinto

Shiromi Pinto

© Eva Blue

Interview | Raakhee Modha Shiromi Pinto was born in London in 1971. With SriLankan heritage, she was raised in Montreal, and studied religion, followed by non-western histories in Canada. After returning to London to take an MA at SOAS, Shiromi traveled widely and directed a short educational film in Mali. She is now based in London working as a writer and editor. Shiromi’s first short story, ‘Bulat Kisses’ (published in the anthology Notes Across the Aisle, Thistledown Press, Canada), was awarded second prize by the publisher in its 1995 short story competition. ‘Give a man luck (and throw him into the sea)’, another short story, appears in the winter edition of Fugue (University of Idaho) and has been nominated for the 2005 Pushcart Prize. Her latest piece, ‘Trussed’, appears in the anthology ‘Kin’, forthcoming from ‘Serpents Tail’. http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user. viewprofile&friendID=119362185

R: How would you describe your style of writing? SP: “This is a hard one to define. In some ways, I think I’m still working out what my style is. For me, style is informed by the genre of fiction one chooses to write. If I’m writing a gritty urban pseudo-crime farce, such as my novel ‘Trussed’ , then the language I use will reflect the demands of that particular story. If the story I’m writing is set in the 17th century, then I will adapt the language accordingly. I guess one thing I am guilty of is opacity. I don’t like giving things away from the beginning. I expect a reader to be alert to clues throughout the text, so that they can piece things together as the story goes along.”

R: What inspires you to write? SP: “Anything can inspire me to write... for instance, ‘Trussed’ began by accident. I was walking near Russell Square, looked down at the pavement and saw the words: ‘Hotter than a Vindaloo.’ One of those prostitute postcard ads had literally blown itself right under my foot. Somehow, I couldn’t let that go. I went home that afternoon and started writing what would later become the opening scene of ‘Trussed’. I’m also hugely inspired by climate. Whenever I find myself in tropical, humid environments, I am compelled to turn to pen and paper. There’s something about the heat...”

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R: Do you have a favourite South Asian author?

SP: “Well, I don’t like to think about authors in such crude terms, but if I had to choose, I would say Salman Rushdie. I love the irreverence with which he juxtaposes vernacular and formal language, and the inventiveness and humour of his prose. ‘Shalimar the Clown’ was such a brilliant return to form.”

R: What are the issues facing British Asian people? SP: “A very broad question...I don’t think you can generalise about such a variegated group. I would be considered British Asian, I suppose, but I am of Sri Lankan ancestry and do not share the characteristics commonly associated with British Asian culture in Britain. In fact, I don’t particularly identify myself with this category. I think of myself as a Londoner, a Brit, a Canadian (I grew up in Montreal), an ex-Montrealer, a lapsed Catholic...etc. We are all influenced by such a complex of experiences. In the end, generalising on this scale is not only facile, but dangerous as well. So...if pressed to answer your question, I think one issue facing ‘British Asians’ is being pigeonholed into a category called ‘British Asian’ which, defined by those outside (and perhaps, by a vocal group within), may have little to do with the people the term is supposed to describe.”

R: What advice would give to Indian authors? SP: “My advice would be the same whatever the writer’s background (ie. write about what you know!), except for one thing. If you do come from a non-mainstream background, then you are often faced with the pressures of producing something exotic - something that, perhaps, reminds publishers of that fabulous trip to Goa, the Gambia or whatever. I think that attitude is slowly ebbing away, replaced now by a fascination with sub-culture and culture clash. Whatever it is, the reality is that as a writer from a non-mainstream background, I really do think you are treated differently by publishers - their expectations are quite different. Not only are they looking at the story but also at how what they define as an ‘exotic’ difference can be used to successfully market the work. This can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the type of book you’ve written.”

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Preethi Nair Interview | Rebecca Abrahams

Preethi Nair

Preethi Nair was born in Kerala, South India in 1971, arriving to England as a child. She gave up a successful career as a management consultant to become a writer. After being rejected by several publishers, a jobless Preethi set up her own publishing company, using the deposit from a flat she had planned to buy. Since there were no funds to pay for a PR agency, Preethi appointed Pru Menon (her alter ego) to overtly hype her first book ‘Gypsy Masala’ - consequently, a three-book deal was signed with HarperCollins. Preethi went on to win the ‘Asian Woman of Achievement’ award for her endeavours, whilst Pru was shortlisted as Publicist of the Year for the PPC awards. Her second novel ‘One hundred Shades of White’ has been adapted for television by the BBC. Her latest book, ‘The Colour of Love’, a fictionalised account of this journey, has just been re-released alongside ‘Gypsy Masala’. Preethi writes for a number of broadsheet newspapers, BBC radio 4 and is an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust. She has also set up a new business, Kiss the Frog, a company which promotes corporate storytelling and creative leadership. www.preethinair.com

R: What are you working on at the moment? PN: “I have just set up a new business Kiss the Frog so my focus is there at the moment. At some point in the near future, I would like to start writing a play.”

R: When are we going to see ‘One Hundred Shades of White’ on the television? You must be very pleased. PN: “I don’t know is the honest answer and I am delighted.”

R: Is all your work based on experiences/memories from your own childhood? PN: “I draw a lot from all of those things but then the art is fictionalising it all.”

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R: Who are your favourite authors and why?

PN: “Isabel Allende, Amy Tan, Niaill Williams – they make the ordinary and mundane seem so magical.”

R: Who, in your life has inspired you the most? PN: “My dad. He had nothing and built a whole new life by dreaming big and working hard.”

R: Do you feel that your business management background has helped in your quest to be a successful author? PN: “Definitely. When I couldn’t find a publisher, I thought strategically about my next steps – I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do that without having a background in business.”

R: I am in interested to see that you have move into storytelling, what made you make this decision? PN: “I have always been a storyteller and have always felt these skills were undervalued in business. I thought whenever I have the opportunity, this is what I would like to do and so Kiss the Frog was born.”

R: Many find your writing inspirational, how would you feel to find out that it was you, that made the difference to just one person (or maybe more!) in their ambitions to be a writer. PN: “Moved.”

R: How do you remain so positive all the time? PN: “I wish I could be positive all the time. When I’m not, I give thanks for all that I have and there’s a lot to be grateful for.”

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PHOTOGRAPHY - SATYAPRAKASH Kajal Nisha Patel Interview | Rebecca Abrahams

Photographer Kajal candidly talks to Rangoli about her transcendental epiphany... R: So Kajal, tell us a little about your background? KNP: “My father migrated from India to England, via Africa, in 1969. He went to join my grandfather in Africa who worked as a builder – He was nine years old when he left his homeland. This was the last time he saw his mother, my grandmother, who at the time worked on a farm earning only 1 rupee per day. I was born and raised in England, though my parents encouraged visits to India since early childhood…my longest absence was eight years. I returned in 2005 to see India developing significantly, but was disheartened to see so many people still living in abject poverty. I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency and responsibility… I had to be part of the change I wanted to see.”

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R: So Kajal, tell us a little about your background? Cont. KNP: “I returned to England after a period of two months and began my search for opportunities which would facilitate a return to India. I was very lucky, as the first search result presented a company named Indicorps. Their motto read “Service for the Soul”, with a mission “To encourage Indians around the world to actively participate in progress of the country that defines their identity. I feel that everything that has happened to me, since I contacted Indicorps’, is kismet (fate). I approached the founder by email, explaining my passion for photography and vision for social progress in India. I was practising street photography at the time, using a basic compact digital camera. My photography internship with Indicorps started in January 2007. My primary task was to immerse myself into a chosen community where I would contribute to grassroots development, whilst implementing social change.” R: Kajal’s most recent exhibition focuses on a group of women - predominantly widows, living in Gujarat’s largest slum within the city of Ahmedabad. In a developing India, roughly 1 million people’s income, survival and identity is defined by the fragments of a “higher class” consumerdriven society - India’s new bourgeoisie. Known as “rag pickers”, Kajal’s subjects are the unrecognised backbone of waste management, forming the bottom layer of a lucrative recycling chain. She describes them as moving shadows that appear before sunrise and slip into every nook, alley, street and building to collect anything from plastic, paper, broken glass to syringes. Satyaprakash (light of truth) follows a group of ardent women, carrying out their gruelling duties with a spirited determination to break their children from this cycle.

R: The photos in your most recent exhibition ‘Satyaprakash (light of truth)’ were all taken in India. Why India? (See www.kajalpatel.com) KNP: “India seemed the natural choice - I have been drawn to this country ever since I was a child, though my 2005 trip had the most profound effect on me. I began to question exactly what my parents had left behind… I gradually realised that they and my grandparents had sacrificed their dreams so I could fulfil mine. As a child, I felt frustrated because I could not understand why my parents hoarded things; which I considered to be worthless. They were teaching me to value the belongings, which we had worked for. I now appreciate that I was a fortunate child - In India, it is very different; even the children humbly accept their difficult fate without complaint – they just get on with it! I was moved by their strength and reevaluated my whole subsistence. My British-Indian heritage is a blessing and I feel privileged to be able to attach and detach myself when necessary. India and England are two comparable extremes, providing me with answers to some of life’s most significant questions. India gives me patience to accept things I cannot change and/or do not understand. Through my British eyes, India fascinates, intrigues and inspires me.”

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R: Why did you choose this subject matter and what is it that interests you about it? KNP: “When I saw how families survive in the slums, and the labour involved for such a humble existence, it really affected me. I was shocked to see what can be accumulated used syringes, for example. Women and children sort through piles of rubbish from various places with their bare hands, leaving almost nothing behind! The waste is separated into four categories and sold to a middleman. It goes through sixteen further middlemen – increasing in value each time. Young children work with their mothers to receive a pitiful amount of money for large volumes of painstakingly collected and sorted waste. It is backbreaking work! I became passionate about recycling some years ago whilst working for a grass-roots charity in Leicester. I project managed two ecological funeral businesses, where I organised environmentally friendly burials..this piqued an intrinsic interest in global environmental issues and recycling. As individuals, I do not feel we do enough, though I also understand the practical constraints. In England, I feel that recycling is portrayed as an ethical duty whereas for a majority of people in India, this is a necessity. Rag picking is born out of abject poverty and a desperate need to survive in an overcrowded country - I was alarmed to witness this, on a national, organised and lucrative scale. The balance between effort and reward for those involved seems unfair.”

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R: Do you feel that your photographs say enough? KNP: “Definitely not. They are 2-dimensional, and rely on people coming to see the exhibition or visiting them on-line. I want the photographs to transcend their physical space so that the message is reflected in positive action. I would like to take the work into an educational setting, as I want people to not only see, but feel something about how the other half live. My work is about global ethical policies, our environment, the way each and every one of us lives and how this affects other people. I want the opportunity to discuss the work, especially with children as they will have to suffer the effects of our insular lifestyles and short-sighted consumerist trends. I would like others to adopt a more wholesome approach to caring for our environment. Simple living, high thinking! Recycling does not end when you put a plastic bottle in the green box – It becomes a way of life (Dharma)..”

R: How did it make you feel seeing such poverty? KNP: “I would describe it as a fundamentally challenging situation, which was especially difficult in the beginning. I was sad as I couldn’t figure out how I could personally make a difference – the problems seemed overwhelming. In time, I started to spend time with the rag picking women who were making proactive change… they are strong, determined, pragmatic and positive – I was inspired to see this. After a while, I began to forget my western comforts and pleasures, which seemed increasingly superficial. I began to adopt a more simple approach to my own life - this was extremely liberating. It has been difficult to maintain the momentum since my return to England, because I keep making guilty comparisons. I do what I can – this makes me feel somewhat better, though ultimately, I feel partly responsible whilst I live in such a wasteful society. I was brought up to be resourceful, to recycle, visit car boot sales and charity shops; and salvage whatever I can. I feel lucky that my parents provided the foundations for me to recognise the benefits of living simply. This has alleviated a destructive desire in me to acquire an endless list of material objects; thus helping me to make wiser decisions. Act local – think global. These are simple steps which I have implemented in order to continue my journey, ethically and responsibly.”

R: What are your plans for the future? KNP: “I would like to find out the truth behind individual and national responsibility in the bid to reduce global warming within my western, structured society. We each feel that our direct/indirect carbon emissions could be reduced, but I would like explore the grass roots practicalities behind carbon-neutral living. I would like to record individual responses to carbon footprints and personal enviro-ethical responsibility. I want to document a spectrum of urban people in an attempt to understand the physical constraints involved in neo-eco living.” In time, I will go back to India to record the remaining life-cycle of trash and the wider implications of ineffective waste disposal, especially polythene. I am especially concerned with urban cow asphyxiation/death due to plastic bag consumption”.

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SCOUTING LOCAL TALENTS A Writer’s Journey

with Kirti Joshi & Sarfraz Ahmed

Interviews | Raakhee Modha and Rebecca Abrahams

Kirti and Sarfraz, regular participants of Kala Kahani’s Writers’ Development Programme, guide us through their journeys from their own perspectives.

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033 Kirti Joshi’s Journey Words | Kirti Joshi

Kirti Joshi

“I was born in Kampala on March 22nd 1972. Kampala is the capital city of Uganda, in East Africa. I came with my family to England on September 26th, 1972. Obviously I don’t remember anything about Uganda. My mum, dad, my sister who was 3 years old at the time and myself lived in London for a couple of years. We lived with my paternal grandparents, uncle and aunt but due to family conflict we were asked to leave. Fortunately for my dad, one of his brothers lived in Leicester. He helped my dad out with a job and a home for us. So my parents built a life for the family in Leicester. I went to Mellor Primary School and it was here that I became interested in reading. I couldn’t get enough of books! My favourite author then was the great Roald Dahl. I won a couple of competitions for writing the best story in class. I then went to Rushey Mead Secondary School and of course, my favourite subject was English. I also started to get an interest in Science. I studied Science at college as well as University. I loved studying Science but I always felt that I should be doing something else which now I know is writing.”

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“I have worked in bars too and taught for a living. I was also a translator for a window company I used to work for. I’ve studied Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. I have been in a drama production called ‘Wake Up To Dream’. I played a character called Reeta who didn’t want an arranged marriage and ran away to London. Luckily for me my dad never agreed with arranged marriages. My interest in writing began about six years ago and I never thought that I would be lucky enough to get published. It was a good friend of mine Spida who introduced to me writing. I never believed that I could write but with Spida’s encouragement I slowly started to progress. Unfortunately Spida has since passed away but I thank him and miss him very much. It was Spida who introduced me to Kala Kahani a few years back and I realised that I enjoyed writing. In fact I enjoyed writing so much that I enrolled in the Adult Education College to study Creative Writing. One of the main struggles I have faced is difficulty in finding a job as a creative writer. I know that there are jobs out there but they are very few and far between. My biggest success so far is getting published by Penguin and it’s thanks to Kala Kahani that I got this amazing opportunity. In January

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034 2007, Kala Kahani sent me their newsletter as well as details about a competition. Penguin were looking for new writers for an anthology they wanted to publish. I thought to myself what a wonderful opportunity and I must give it my best shot. I then entered it to according what Penguin wanted, which was a non- fiction account of immigration experiences in the UK I wrote about my father’s experiences and how he had to leave his beloved Uganda. I called the story ‘Culture Shock’. On May 31st 2007 I received an email informing me that I was one of the sixteen Decibel Penguin prize winners. I was so happy that for days I couldn’t think of anything else! All the hard work and effort had paid off! The anthology, which is called ‘From There To Here’, was released on the 29th of November 2007. I’m definitely going to continue writing. I’m writing a novel at the moment, which I hope to finish at the end of March. I am now writing full time and also studying magazine journalism. I hope to be a really successful author and I know I can achieve this through time, patience and determination. One of my biggest aspirations is to be an inspiration to other writers and knowing that with hard work, effort and determination anything is possible.”

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Sarfraz Ahmed’s Journey Words | Sarfraz Ahmed

“I have always written ever since I can remember, short-stories, poetry etc. But I never took it seriously and usually never kept anything I had written. A couple of years ago, I decided to put pen to paper and write some poetry. I have always enjoyed poetry ever since I can remember and it was largely due to the influence of my younger sister who encouraged me to write and keep some of my work. The early writings came so naturally and I really could not control the amount of poems I wrote. I found that within a relatively short space of time I had written quite a lot. So the journey had begun, and I loved every moment of it! I wanted to see if any of my poetry was any good. All of my family and friends enjoyed my writing, but was it good enough to get published? I wanted to see how I could develop further as a writer so I contacted my local Literary Development Officer and started going to workshops where I met more writers. I even performed some of my work to some very enthusiastic audiences. Although the workshops were good, I felt that they never catered for my needs. As a British Asian born and bred in the UK, my experiences were very different to a lot of the white middle-class writers and poets that I was meeting. Through Kala Kahani, I attended the first writer’s workshop in Leicester hosted by many well-established writers like Debjanee Chatterjee, amongst others. Over the next couple of years I had the opportunity to meet more writers like Rani Moorthy and one of my all time favourite poets Daljit Nagra. During this period one or two of my poems were published in books and magazines like ‘Tadeeb’. I have had my work published many times, on various websites, including that of Kala Kahani. United Press publishers have also published many poems of mine; over fifteen to date; with the editor’s encouragement to write more. Kala Kahani came to me at the right time and has helped me manage my writing, as well as developing new techniques and styles. I recently went back and edited my early work, which was challenging and exciting. I was able to look back at my work with a fresh pair of eyes whilst using all the skills and styles that I had developed over my time with Kala Kahani. I do owe a lot to Kala Kahani who encouraged me to pursue my passion. It is the process of writing that I enjoy the most. In the New Year I hope to submit more of my work to publishers as well as getting involved in other projects that will enable me to get more of my poetry out there to those who enjoy reading it.”

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Rangoli’s Raakhee Modha asks poet Sarfraz about his new offering “Stab the Pomegranate”.

Interview | Raakhee Modha

Stab the Pomegranate

She stabbed the pomegranate, Right through the heart, Cut it to pieces, tore it apart, Sliced and diced it, Drew out its life, She went in with a scalpel, That cut like a knife, Soon after, Blood filled her beautiful hands, As she bled dry its juicy glands, She carried on for a long time, I don’t think she quite knew, That she’d committed, The worst possible crime, That anyone could ever commit, For there is a well thought out method, A perfected technique, To cut open a pomegranate, And this wasn’t it, And there she stood right in front of me, With the pomegranate in her hands, She held it high, so I could see, I knew then, that it was over, That she wasn’t the one for me, The night I witnessed, The stabbing of the pomegranate, The night she cut open my heart, And set me free.

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R: Where did the inspiration for the metaphor of the pomegranate as a heart come from? SA: “The metaphor came from really having always enjoyed eating pomegranates! They are my favourite fruit. When I cut them open they are beautifully put together but also if you notice a half cut pomegranate looks pretty much like a heart. As a whole the pomegranate is a really beautiful fruit but once cut it loses its essence and the juices seem a bit like blood...”

R: This seems like a very personal piece do you think it is important as a poet/writer to always write from personal experiences? SA: “It depends really on how I’m feeling. I feel that every piece of writing contains an element of you anyway, even if the character is someone totally different to you. The power of poetry is sometimes in convicing the reader that this poem is about you. Even if on occasion it is not.” “So far all those that have read my work have enjoyed it and put their interpretation (as people do) to my work. Often some people get quite stirred up. Did the experiences that I write about really happen to me? They compare me to a lot of different writers and encourage me to get in the public arena so more people can access my work.”

R: How do you envisage the public to engage with your work? And do you write with an audience in mind? SA: “No not really. I write because I love writing. Although I do believe that there are so few Asian poets who write contemporary (easy to understand) poetry. I feel I have a duty to write for British-born Asians like me, but as you know I write for all.”

R: What key steps should an unrecognised poet/writer take if he/ she wishes to pursue their passion? SA: “The best bit of advice I received earlier on was to keep on writing and never give up. Try not to be so attached to your writing, as people will criticise it and editors will ask you to cut it etc. You need to be tough and extremely persistent as a writer. I would advise writers to try and get involved in writers’ groups and access Literature Development Officers who can help you further. Finally just get your work out there be persistent and keep submitting work. Someone, somewhere will pick it up and use it eventually.”

R: What do you do besides poetry? What other passions do you have? SA: “I would describe myself, as someone who enjoys life, is fun loving person, who values life and those around him. Besides poetry, I enjoy travelling, going to the cinema, and listening to a wide range of music especially jazz! I love the cafe culture and my favourite place is Rome as I think I would fit in quite nicely there!” Sarfraz Ahmed www.kalakahani.co.uk

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HOT TOPICS Achieving Real Diversity in the Arts World: Words | Amit Popat

Seven steps to success Amit Popat is Diversity Advisor for the University of Arts, London. He has written this article in a personal capacity rather than as a representative of his employer. Amit has served on a number of National and European working groups, advising diversity and has co-edited two publications—Making Equality Simple and Making Diversity Happen.

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“One would imagine that the colourful worlds of art and diversity would entwine together like a beautiful art piece. In reality, even being immersed in creativity such as that in the art world does not necessarily mean that creative action is always applied to everything around us. What about our interactions with other people? Is the creativity of the arts world truly reflected in its human relationships, social interactions and structures?

Amit Popat

The arts world would be wise to consider the reality of who controls the arts. Who are the decision makers? What effort has been made to progress ‘minority’ artists? Do questions need to be asked about ‘token’ minority artists being placed at senior levels to simply satisfy funders or just to tick-box diversity policies? When will ‘minorities’ be accepted on their own terms, not only when their interests are looked after by ‘majorities’ to emphasise fairness - subject to cultural or social assimilation? At the bottom of the art world hierarchy exist the many projects, organisations and initiatives targeting black, disabled, gay - and other socalled hard to reach communities. At the top, there are the exclusive white middle and upper class networks with double-glazed glass ceilings.

“Is the creativity of the arts world truly reflected in its human relationships, social interactions and structures?” What does all of this mean for students of art? More importantly, what does this mean for those responsible for education in the arts?

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039 Like other HE / FE institutions, arts universities and colleges are plagued with equal opportunities and diversity strategies, policies and action plans, which are all determined by legislation and public duties. The diversity ‘business case’ drives many institutions to competing in the global market to attract and retain students and staff from around the world. Universities approach the subject of diversity generally through policy – the stick, and the carrot – bums on seats, and oh yes: ‘I have a scheme!’ This approach is promoted widely within the public sector diversity arena. But we must question whether the ‘carrot and stick’ approach ultimately promotes self-centeredness at one end and fear at the other. Clearly, legislation has its place as an enforcer of change if critical masses engage – since the seat belt law has been in place the majority of us comply. If arts universities emit creativity as a natural resource, should it not be the case that this creative energy be utilised in management structures and practice; curriculum development and community relations? I celebrate the statue of Alison Lapper (next page), criticised by some sections of the media as ‘all message and no art’. In my view, no challenge, no change. The statue has raised the profile of disability but we still have a long way to go to progress disabled artists into the mainstream. The statue also raises the challenge of balancing freedom of expression with respect for the values of particular groups.

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What can to be done beyond writing policies? I believe there are seven steps to success:

1

Create a powerful, consistent, guiding coalition to drive diversity - without this, real change is difficult. The inconsistency of leaders in words and deeds undermines efforts to be more inclusive

2

Deal with complacency. Too much ‘management happy talk’ and avoiding conflict leads to slow change or none at all – this creates blind spots for leaders

3

Develop a clear understandable vision. Trying to chip away behind the scenes and avoid dialogue about future direction only maintains the status quo.

4

Remove barriers within organisational structures – these could be people or systems

5

Plan your diversity journey with short, medium and long term wins - this builds momentum

6

Make a conscious effort to anchor diversity within the management systems of the organisation – supervision and appraisal, starting with the head of the organisation, governors and senior management

7

Create a realistic plan through dialogue from the top right the way down. Action plans created by a few individuals and only endorsed by those at the top leads to lack of buy in, responsibility or accountability

040 “At the bottom of the art world hierarchy exist the many projects, organisations and initiatives targeting black, disabled, gay - and other so-called hard to reach communities. At the top, there are the exclusive white middle and upper class networks with double-glazed glass ceilings.” “we must question whether the ‘carrot and stick’ approach ultimately promotes selfcenteredness at one end and fear at the other.” I remember once offering a twoweek session of ‘free’ diversity training to a group of busy senior managers in a sunny location abroad to support them with their roles. All of them immediately agreed to the proposition. The reality was, I had no training to offer, but was amazed at how they all managed to find 70 hours to work on strategic diversity in light of all the resources and time restrictions they identified as reasons for lack of progress with the agenda… watch out for complacency. Targeting people from underrepresented groups should not be approached in a philanthropic, charitable, colonial way – poor people struggling to access the ‘mainstream’ - but in the spirit of collaboration mutual learning to achieve the sharing of ideas, ideologies and concepts to add to the innate creative power that exists within us all – ‘We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.’ – Chief Seattle.”

Amit Popat specialises in delivering Diversity Training, tailored to specific staff groups and departments, enabling them to drive diversity agendas within their job roles. If you would like to contact Amit or enquire about his services email: a.popat@arts.ac.uk Or call: 07872 636237

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041

YEARS SINCE THE PARTITION OF BRITISH INDIA Local school children perform their interpretations Words | Rebecca Abrahams

of this deeply emotive event.....

“When I was first approached by Dominic Rai of Man Mela Theatre, a well respected theatre director that we have worked with on many occasions in the past, I was both intrigued and excited about the project. When I began to read the background of what Dominic intended to do, I felt both ignorant and ill informed. As a forty something relatively well educated person, I knew very little and began to feel a little ashamed at my lack of knowledge. Reading the project proposal these words grabbed my heart and made me want to know more... ‘The fact is both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped. By the summer of 1947.... 10 million people – Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs – were in flight. Almost a million of them were dead.’ (Kushwant Singh) The project began with its launch in the Houses of Commons on 21st November 2006 in front of a very prestigious audience. I was quite excited at going to the Houses of Commons anyway and felt positively awe struck by all the pomp and ceremony. We would be working on the project with our local literature development office Dr. Kerry Featherstone, so he accompanied me to London. As the proceedings began, the eminent poet, Mazhar Tirmazi listened intently. It was his play that had inspired Dominic to commemorate the 60th year since Partition in someway, to at least create an awareness, to not just let it pass by. There are so many people in this

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country who came here fleeing the Partition, who’s lives were destroyed, who lost everything including sons, daughters, family and friends. Memories take along while to heal. The launch was an evening of photographs taken by Margaret Bourke-White presented as a short film, music played in the background, John McDonnell MP spoke eloquently, asking for support. The most poignant part about the evening though was the discussion at the end, it soon became very apparent I feel bad about the Partition. that there was still hurt, I have not seen my brother and mum for days. pain, unforgiveness. There is no point in living this partitioned life. People clamoured to say their piece, share their Before everyone was happy living side by side. grief, it quickly became Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs living side by side. a torrent of stories, of hurt, mixed in with the But today we are all leaving our home town ignorance of youth, who And neighbours are killing neighbours. felt ‘they (parents and Brothers fighting for survival. grandparents) should get I would have one country. over it’ ‘leave it in the I want to live with my neighbours past.’ To me, that just And have my own freedom. proved even more why we needed to undertake this project. Not to drag it all up, not to have to relive it all, but to create a platform for acceptance and understanding.

Jamil Choudhury

Back at the office, Kerry, Dominic and I decided to take our ‘Children of the Partition‘ project into a local High School. Kerry would encourage a group of children to produce some creative writing, which Dominic would then transform into dramatic pieces. My job was to find a group willing to work with us, which Nicky Gale from Limehurst High School volunteered to do. Right from the outset, Nicky and her staff were just as excited and enthusiastic about the project as we were, there were moments when I could say that the children didn’t quite feel the same! During this project there have been many poignant moments, when

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042 we introduced this project during an assembly at Limehurst was one of them. How do you get a group of rowdy 11 and 12 year olds to take an interest in something that happened 60 years ago that the majority of them didn’t even know about? We played the short film, told them what we wanted to do, no response, and then I asked them to imagine being told to go home now, to pack whatever they could carry and leave. ‘But where to Miss?’ ‘I don’t know’ I said. ‘But what about food, what will we eat Miss?’ ‘I don’t know’ I said again. ‘But when can we come back?’ ‘I don’t know if you will ever be able to.’ Now several of the students were getting into it. ‘But I couldn’t...my stuff, my family...’ ‘But you have to.’ I retorted. ‘But where will we go Miss?’ I didn’t reply. Silence filled the Hall, now they knew what we were talking about. Tears pricked the back of my eyes. The write up, poems and photos of the project with Limehurst can be found on the main website at http://www. kalakahani.co.uk/limehurstschool. html. In January 2007, I decided to launch an internet appeal. Some sixty years after Partition, these children that took flight would now be at least late sixties, early seventies. I needed to hear the stories, needed to acknowledge them. The response that I had was just overwhelming, emails came from America, Canada, India and the UK, I was amazed at how brutally honest people were, how trusting with such painful memories. It became obvious that people wanted to share these memories, not just to seek forgiveness and understanding from other people, but to forgive themselves for the horrors they were drawn into. Those experiences have coloured the whole of their lives. I have shared these stories with others and feel eternally grateful to the contributors of the stories for the trust they have extended to us.”

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THE NOBLE SAGE ART GALLERY IN LONDON South Indian Contemporary Art Words | Raakhee Modha

with

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Jana Manuelpillai

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‘Village woman’(2006) by A. Selvaraj

It is a Sunday afternoon, and I find myself in East Finchley, ready to interview Jana Manuelpillai at his art gallery. I am not really sure how the day will unfold...the little that I know about him fascinates me. He is the owner and Director of London’s first Indian contemporary art gallery, The Noble Sage, which opened in April 2006. His credentials speak for themselves; a degree in Art History and English Literature from Birmingham University and a firstclass Masters degree in Museology at Leicester University. Jana’s experience of educational settings, arts museums and galleries such as the Dulwich Picture Gallery, MASS MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Arts) in Massachusetts and the world-famous Mall Galleries; in London, solidifies the conviction he has in his work. The Noble Sage is an amalgamation of his personal and professional experiences. The gallery feels very open and uncluttered yet there are enough pieces to keep the creative eye tantalized. The space is cleverly furnished with rustic grand Indian chairs and shelves housing a selection of art books for public perusal. Skylights channel ample light liberally into the long, rectangular room. Jana introduces his recent successful Sri Lankan art exhibition. British-born Jana, is proud of his Sri Lankan heritage and feels very much connected to his roots through his work. The paintings, drawings and sculptures that I first viewed on the website now become alive and three-dimensional as I stand in front of them. I settle at Jana’s desk, keen to learn more about his voyage. I want to focus on the reasoning behind his

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044 choices, the source of his unrelenting motivation and what he envisages for the future. Where better to start than the beginning? I ask Jana about growing up in Wembley and how this influenced his decision to pursue art. His creative background dates back to GCSE and A-level art, a subject he loved. Jana fell into arts and languages naturally, as he was allergic to sports. Despite their own creative abilities, both his parents became accountants. Jana was, however encouraged to follow his passion, as they realised he would engage with learning this way. Jana’s degree armed him with the vocabulary and discourse in Art History. Whilst studying at university, he worked for three years as an unpaid assistant to the Education Officer, at Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Coincidently the opportunity to become an assistant arose within the gallery and Jana was duly appointed. The year-long post broadened his experience with children and adults including those with special needs and disabilities. This allowed Jana to teach and conduct workshops in sculpture, drawing and art, using his knowledge of Impressionism and Surrealism. He began to consider his next move and applied for placements and internships across the globe. Twenty applications and three offers later, Jana pursued an internship at the relatively new MASS MoCA, on the advice of his tutor. It was set to be the biggest contemporary art space in the world, a record the museum holds today. Its infancy meant that work was in abundance for Jana, the MoCA’s visual arts assistant. He helped to create their catalogues and put

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together exhibitions, housing some good international talent. He initiated an education department drawing on his previous experiences. Not one for wasting precious time, Jana returned to Leicester a year later and completed his Masters in Museology; specialising in education.

‘City under water’ (2006) by P. Jayakani, oil on canvas with collage, 34 x 34 inches

‘Untitled’ (2007) by T. Athiveerapandian, acrylic on canvas, 49 x 43 inches

By chance he knew a friend who worked at the Mall Galleries in London. They were in the stages of conceptualising their own education department and Jana was given responsibility for this challenge providing he was able to raise funds to start the project. He received a small grant, which he used to run a pilot scheme. A year later the results were used to obtain a much bigger grant for the entire programme. For two and a half years Jana worked with visually impaired and blind children, using art and sculpture to build their imagination. He became governor at one of six schools in Brent, where he offered free arts programmes. This proved to be a fresh challenge, which involved Jana in the politics of education as well as the arts. He wandered the borough like a lost traveller with his map, to approach schools which would allow him the chance to work with them. These particular schools were in deprived areas- a stark contrast to Jana’s private education. The pilot programme was successful and was consequently granted funds from Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which were fed back into the programme. I am sitting at Jana’s desk digesting his story, eager to hear the rest. Jana maintains that his allergy to sport

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045 remains, even today…(I cannot help but notice his striking modesty). Jana was in his mid-twenties when he felt the strains of fundraising to run schemes whilst paying himself a salary. Undefeated, Jana executed plans to move him towards his subsequent stepping stone, thus the seed for running his own gallery, a childhood dream, sprouted. Our conversation organically follows onto Jana’s inspiration for The Noble Sage. Jana had noticed India’s booming economy with the art market following suit. He saw a niche in London for a space, which specialised in Indian contemporary art. Formally a car workshop, The Noble Sage premises were once owned by Jana’s father. He was allowed to convert the space into a gallery, so long as a sound business plan was drawn with the capital to fund his bold venture. In search of creative talent, Jana made visits to Chennai (India) with his father; also his Tamil translator. Jana researched a selection of artists, which led him to discover other artists. The name The Noble Sage was inspired by the converse of ‘The Noble Savage’ from Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’. Two years from conception the gallery received a grand opening in April 2006. We arrive nicely into the present situation of the gallery. I am interested to gain further insight to Jana’s daring personality and his work ethic. What does Jana have planned for The Noble Sage’s future? Jana’s mind is always ticking… constantly brainstorming new ventures. The gallery hosts a successful

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‘Web Lovers’ (1948) by F.N. Souza, gouache on card

‘Untitled (blue canvas)’ (2006) by Achuthan Kudallur, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 inches

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cinema night; again, a first in the UK to specialize in Asian Art House. ‘In The Fore’, which was recently hosted at the gallery, began in 2007 with plans to continue in 2009. The schedule for 2008 is cemented, whilst future projects are being contemplated. Plans to exhibit works in Central London, from April 2008, are also in progress. A new website has been launched and Jana wants to introduce new features such as online auctions and interviews. Paintings are currently available to buy on the site. Jana wants to showcase British Indian Contemporary artists, animation, video installation, multimedia and photography. He wants to start up an Education Department with a coffee shop next to the gallery where artwork can be displayed and discussed. In just five years, Jana aims to introduce The Noble Sage to New York, Berlin, South India and South London. He is surely setting a precedent for the South Indian art scene, which I sense is within his grasp. And the drive? It is evident that Jana is passionate about his work. He works with talented artists and is able to mould the South Indian art scene. Some of his favourite pieces are by S. Ravi Shankar, T. Athiveerapandian, V. Anamika and A.P. Santhanaraj. Jana feels that South Indian culture and art has something else to offer. Its charm lies in its colour, vibrancy and warmth. There is an exotic appeal, which draws people in. Jana explains that the South Indian art scene is not as corrupt as in the North - its purity is its alluring feature. He chooses each piece individually and the process can take three to four months. He looks

046 for consistent style and technique in the body of work, including a rigorous scan of the artists’ preparatory work. He adds that the exhibition only feels complete if the entire process comes together organically. It is a huge personal and professional investment for Jana as he buys 95% of his work out right. He is conscious not to compromise his integrity as well as the sincerity of the art he selects. Jana feels that he has come full circle…back to his mother’s roots in South India, where opportunities for art now exist. Ironically Jana’s father also came to the UK seeking opportunities. Nobody in Jana’s age group offers the unique service that he can. He is not just an art dealer, he is a storyteller for the art. He is able to relay the work in its original context; from artist’s perception to canvas. The discourse of its entire journey is Jana’s favourite aspect to his work. Art is an intricate combination of energy, vision and concept, he explains...this is what distinguishes art from design. So we draw a close to our interview yet I feel as though I have only tasted the beginning of Jana’s aspirations and unquestioning passion. His imagination and drive appear to gain momentum with each new venture he endeavours. I am struck by Jana’s strong values and humility. I feel his story is a chain of events, entwining fate, opportunities and self-belief, synchronised themselves in harmony to play out his incredible journey... one which will serve to inspire others for years to come. I would like to extend my gratitude to Jana for this impromptu and candid interview. www.thenoblesage.com.

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KALA KAHANI Recommends Links Search Engine for Arts Web Sites Writing and Publishing Information Cultural organisations in the East Midlands Asian Arts Awareness in the South West British Asian Writers News and Commentary on Asians in British Media Monthly Journal of Reviews and Articles of Books Published in India and Abroad

www.kalakahani.co.uk

www.artsearch.org.uk www.youwriteon.com www.leicesterwriters.org.uk www.cultivate-em.org.uk www.asianartsagency.co.uk www.theasianwriter.co.uk www.asiansinmedia.org www.thebookreviewindia.org

Womens Writing

www.womenswriting.com

Poetry Links

www.kritya.in www.mehďŹ l-e-shayeri.org

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KAL KI KALA-

048

Forthcoming Features The Art of Tomorrow

Rangoli’s next issue will cover the following events: © Hollis Photography 2004

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3rd April - Writers’ Workshop A writers’ workshop for Kala Kahani’s Writers Development Programme with Dr Kerry Featherstone, the local Literature Development Officer.

4th - 6th April - Darbar Music Festival 2008 The Darbar Music Festival 2008 took place at the Phoenix Arts in Leicester; culminating in a stunning and rare ensemble of classical music traditions from South Asia. www.darbar.org.uk

12th April - Writers’ Workshop A writers’ workshop for Kala Kahani’s Writers’ Development Programme with poet Mahendra Solanki (Six of One and Half a Dozen of the Other). He is also the Director of a Master’s program in Writing at Nottingham Trent University. His first collection of poems, Shadows of my Making, was published in 1986.

14th, 21st and 28th April - Workshop Sandfield Adult Learners Group consisting of adults and children whose first language is not English. The workshop will aim to equip participants with basic storytelling and puppet making skills.

23rd April - Book Exchange Kala Kahani’s Book Exchange at the Shree Ram Krishna Centre (SRK) 12.30-2.30pm. In a bid to ignite passion for reading, coinciding with the National Year of Reading, we will be at SRK centre giving away books by South Asian authors. Copies of books in Asian languages will also be available, courtesy of the Loughborough Library Services.

15th May - An Evening with Hanif Kureishi Meet the author of The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi at the Leicester Adult Education College, 7pm. The evening will be hosted by Damien Walter (Literature Development Officer).

17th May - Picnic in the Park Our community event ‘Picnic in the Park’ takes place at Queens Park in Loughborough. Kala Kahani will be manning a storytelling tent for the day with our resident storyteller Hema alongside participants of our storytelling programme.

© Hollis Photography 2004

www.kalakahani.co.uk

For more information on any of these events, contact Rebecca Abrahams. 01509 821035 rebecca.abrahams@charnwood-arts.org.uk CONTENTS 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12


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Profile for Charnwood Arts

Rangoli #01... Spring 08  

Kala Kahani's Magazine: South Asian Arts and Literature

Rangoli #01... Spring 08  

Kala Kahani's Magazine: South Asian Arts and Literature