Mohona: Estuaries of Desire

Mohona, estuaries of desire, works through stories of women’s lives around access to water. The increasing privatization of bodies of water, originally a communally held resource has sparked crises of potable water for many communities around the world, and lead to increased violence against women, who are often the collectors of water for their families.


“Choreographer Ananya Chatterjea’s work focuses on social justice and human rights from a global perspective.…These fiery artists demand attention, action and the abandonment of complacency. And they get it.” – ‘Ananya Dance Theatre sends powerful message,’ September 21, 2013, by Caroline Palmer, Star Tribune

World Premiere: September 20, 2013, The O’Shaughnessy, St. Catherine University, Saint Paul MN

Running Time: 95 minutes, without intermission

Ananya Chatterjea: artistic director, choreographer, dancer

Marcus Young: directorial consultant

Mankwe Ndosi: collaborator, performer

Dancers: Renée Copeland, Alexandra Eady, Katie Haynes, Orlando Hunter, Zainab Musa, Brittany Radke, Chitra Vairavan, Hui Niu Wilcox, Alessandra Lebea Williams, Tameka Colbert (apprentice), Malia Burkhart (performer, guest artist), Claire Wilcox (young dancer, guest artist), Lynn Wilcox (young dancer, guest artist).

Sound Recording and Score: Greg Schutte, composer; Dr. Pooja Goswami Pavan, voice & percussion; Allalaghata Pavan, voice; Michelle Kinney, cello; Hui, Claire & Lynn Wilcox, poetry; Dorene Day, vocals; Mankwe Ndosi, percussion & vocals; Negest Alemayehu, poetry; Hoka Hey Drum Group.

Mike Wangen: lighting design • Annie Katsura Rollins: set & costume design • Annie Cady: costume consruction

Josina Manu Maltzman: production manager • Timothy Herian & Christina Harstad: assistant stage managers

Production videographer: Darren Johnson, Northern Dawn Media

Mohona: Estuaries of Desire immerses itself in stories of women’s lives and access to water. The increasing privatization of bodies of water, originally a communally held resource, has sparked crises of potable water for many communities around the world and led to systemic violence against women, who are often the collectors of water for their families.

In Mohona, water is both material, quenching thirst, and metaphor, signifying flow, femininity, and resistance. The creative space is imagined as an estuary – located at the confluence of multiple marine flows, rich in possibilities – where dancers layer breath, movement, and voice, to explore the thematic focus.

Images running through Mohona parallel the force and flow associated with water: women standing in long lines in a Mumbai slum, waiting to collect water for everyday use; Native women from Minnesota walking 1,430 miles to pour clean water from Lake Itasca into the Gulf of Mexico as a spiritual journey (Mother Earth Water Walk ceremony); individuals competing in material resources that often take huge amounts of water to produce; women in desperate situations drowning themselves; and communities migrating toward uncertain futures as riverbeds run dry. Four goddesses of water, Ganga (of Hindu philosophy), Mazu (originating in Chinese mythology), Chalchiuhtlicue (the Aztec goddess), and Oshun (the Yoruba goddess), enter the world of Mohona at crucial points, reminding us of turning points in the history of our eco-system.

Artistic Director and Choreographer’s Note

The word “mohona” means “estuary” in Bengali. Its meaning as the title of this work became a self-fulfilling prophecy as our creative process brought together influences, insights, and stories from communities and leaders that taught me about the inherent magic of such confluences. When sweet and salt waters converge in an estuary, great richness and diversity of marine life becomes possible. Mohona has emerged from and embodies just such an estuary – one where stories of assault and appropriation, violation and devastation, loss and despair, rage and depression mix and alter course with those of cleansing and reclaiming, remembering and rebuilding, revealing and forgiving, hoping and loving – to reflect the emotional life of water and of life dependent upon water.

Mohona has taught me that water flows through everything, and we can protect this precious natural resource only when we work together as a community. All of us are implicated in the looming, global water crisis, and all of us must rethink how we live our lives in order to cope with it. The effects of this crisis will be far-reaching, requiring us to reimagine our eco-system with love so we can endure the sacrifices we will be called to make. Art is one way to inspire and remind us of that love, and to reveal the humanity at the heart of situations where conflicting emotions call on our courage, patience, and understanding of the epic nature of our intimate relationship with our natural environment.

We call you to begin shifting our energetic connection to water and join our endeavor in several ways: (a) Write a wish, a prayer, or hope for our waters on the note cards provided to you, and offer them to “the women at the shore” at the orchestra pit near the stage, or pass them down your row when they are collected; (b) Imagine the water inside your body and join us with your breath and gestures at the end of the show; and (c) Join us in the movement at the end with the refrain “Clap, clap, gather your friends, become the water, and let it flow.” Whether you join us from your seats, at the shore, or in the side aisles, water needs you!

Mohona marks the culmination of Ananya Dance Theatre’s quartet exploring women’s experiences with and responses to systemic violence. Our four year investigative journey wended its way through four, naturally occurring elements – land (Kshoy!/Decay! 2010), gold (Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass 2011), oil (Moreechika: Season of Mirage 2012), and water – that have been commodified with the inevitable results of assault and violence. We have learned that women, in the midst of stories of devastation and horror, often find courage, conjure hope, summon love, and imagine sustainability.

I thank my collaborators, Mankwe Ndosi, Marcus Young, Greg Schutte, Pooja Goswami Pavan, Annie Rollins, and every dance artist and cultural activist at Ananya Dance Theatre – Chitra Vairavan, Renée Copeland, Hui Wilcox, Orlando Hunter, Brittany Radke, Alexandra Eady, Katie Haynes, Zainab Musa, Timothy Herian, and Josina Manu – for their tremendous work and vision. I feel special gratitude to the inspiring leaders whose research, activism, and thoughts have pushed me in my journey: Sharon Day, Dorene Day, Janice BadMoccasin, Mona Smith, Rose Brewer, Louis Alemayehu, Jigna Desai, and Lisa Park.

Mohona: Estuaries of Desire

1. Plasticism: The Company with Mankwe Ndosi

2. Ganga’s Play: Hui Niu Wilcox with Claire Wilcox and Lynn Wilcox

3. Mumbai Water Line: The Company

4. Forecast: Mankwe Ndosi

5. Migration: The Company

6. Parched: Brittany Radke

7. I Didn’t Mean to Drown: Renée Copeland, Alex Eady, and Katie Haynes with Chitra Vairavan

8. Mazu’s Embrace: Renée Copeland

9. Fluoride Capital: Mankwe Ndosi and Ananya Chatterjea

10. Chemical Lawns: The Company

11. Chalchiuhtlicue’s Rage: Ananya Chatterjea

12. End of Water: The Company

14. Oshun’s Transformation: Chitra Vairavan

15. Flowing in Each Other’s Memories: The Company with Zainab Musa

16. Losing and Remembering: Ananya Chatterjea, Hui Wilcox, Orlando Hunter, Katie Haynes, Brittany Radke

17. Water to be Clear Must Run: The Company