September 22, 2011

Marriage: It Isn’t Really A Choice

 Nimo Farah was invited to share her words and images in the lobby during our run of Tushaanal Fires of Dry Grass. We were honored by her talents and our audience were moved by her. We wanted to share, once again, the work of Nimo Farah

I go to bed with ideas lately
after hearing women speak through the radio.
The women on the radio are free.
I wonder if they know about me, a girl
who lost her smile at fifteen
when I was married to a man older than my father.
I was a child decorated with henna and borrowed gold.
I don’t remember smiling.

 

Time moves slowly
as I sit under the sun.
When I sell mangos in the market, I think of going away.
Now I have gold of my own, small pieces I bargain for
from the other market women
and bury under our hut.
I listen to the radio to learn how to speak
like a city woman.
I save newspaper pictures of dresses I want to buy
when I go there.
I will keep my head covered.

 

Nimo Farah loves orators and different forms of storytelling and sees the material for a compelling story all around us. Being exposed to Ananya Dance Theater’s powerful storytelling through movement has inspired her to write about the struggles of humanity, particularly those of women. Feeling that our collective and most basic human values have been adopted without the counsel of women of color and that the abuse and imbalance of power has left a legacy of great hardship. With their natural resources thrown into the fiery pit of consumption and greed only to be branded into gleaming instruments of oppression and violence. She is moved by these women’s fortitude and shares some photography and poetic narrative that is inspired by Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass.

September 20, 2011

Fire From Dry Grass

Nimo Farah was invited to share her words and images in the lobby during our run of Tushaanal Fires of Dry Grass. We were honored by her talents and our audience were moved by her. We wanted to share, once again, the work of Nimo Farah

 

Should I blame the mothers,
or the villagers who did not sing?
Who did not light a bonfire from dry grass
or roast meat in my name?
They only sing songs when boys are born
and like a straight arrow to an enemy’s chest
boys bring freedom.
To the people of my village a boy completes a half empty home
but a girl is pain, born from a man’s crooked rib.
So I was welcomed with silence.

 

Nimo Farah loves orators and different forms of storytelling and sees the material for a compelling story all around us. Being exposed to Ananya Dance Theater’s powerful storytelling through movement has inspired her to write about the struggles of humanity, particularly those of women. Feeling that our collective and most basic human values have been adopted without the counsel of women of color and that the abuse and imbalance of power has left a legacy of great hardship. With their natural resources thrown into the fiery pit of consumption and greed only to be branded into gleaming instruments of oppression and violence. She is moved by these women’s fortitude and shares some photography and poetic narrative that is inspired by Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass.

September 15, 2011

Women Who Fly

Nimo Farah was invited to share her words and images in the lobby during our run of Tushaanal Fires of Dry Grass. We were honored by her talents and our audience were moved by her. We wanted to share, once again, the work of Nimo Farah

 

My mother wants more for me
than she’s ever had.
She was pressured to say “yes‟;
to use her hips that were not yet developed
before her lips were formed enough to say “no‟.

My mother sends me to a school
she cannot afford.
My hand is raised, my arm stretched.
I want to say “Call on me.
I want to tell you about the courage of my mother.”

My mother has flat feet, forcing her heels
that know no shoes to walk to her parents home
in the village where she was born.
To find them before death finds them,
and say, “I forgive you.”
Her pain gives her wisdom
and her wisdom gives us both wings.

 

 

Nimo Farah loves orators and different forms of storytelling and sees the material for a compelling story all around us. Being exposed to Ananya Dance Theater’s powerful storytelling through movement has inspired her to write about the struggles of humanity, particularly those of women. Feeling that our collective and most basic human values have been adopted without the counsel of women of color and that the abuse and imbalance of power has left a legacy of great hardship. With their natural resources thrown into the fiery pit of consumption and greed only to be branded into gleaming instruments of oppression and violence. She is moved by these women’s fortitude and shares some photography and poetic narrative that is inspired by Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass.

September 8, 2011

Ananya Dance Theatre: Light-hearted Whimsy Isn't Spoken Here

By Submission by Gina Kundan

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, development of Tushaanal has relied on each dancer to not only hone and articulate their artistic craft, but also to research all the many attributes of, and associations with, gold.  Each dancer contributed research and concepts for the work. Some examples include Chitra Vairavan and Brittany Radke who focused on cultural norms and family traditions of beauty and wealth; Kenna Cottman who uncovered the often dire working conditions of artisanal gold mining camps; Renee Copeland who examined religious practices in Thailand; Hui Wilcox who explored stories of the Empress Dowager Cixi.  All of these studies have been woven into brilliant choreographic elements and inspired artistic choices. Dancers transform! Not just portraying characters, but genuinely embodying images of Goddess, Slave, Empress, Televangelist, Creature, Fire, and amidst all of that, some of us have lives as Women!

Come to this performance to witness an artistic expression of gold as adornment, gold as beauty, gold for wealth, gold for environmental degradation, gold for power, gold for status, gold for divinity, gold for oppression, gold desired, gold coveted, gold taken, gold lost.

Unique to dance theater in general and Ananya Dance Theatre in particular, our work is never about movement alone, it always has multiple layers of meaning, intention, emotionality, and physicality. Truly “like no other,” artistic rigor, dedication, focus, precision, and theatricality are essential requirements of this dance form. At every moment dancers must be acutely in tuned with their bodies. The precise placement of each finger and elbow, every glance, every raise of the eyebrow has meaning and purpose—carries a specific message.

Some have warned us that we have gone too far, that our work is too intense—nearly unbearable to witness—others say we haven’t gone far enough. One thing is certain: Tushaanal Fires of Dry Grass is not for the faint hearted.  Our sequins draw blood.  Light hearted whimsy isn’t spoken here.

September 6, 2011

Ananya's Movement Vocabulary

By Camille LeFevre

For years, I had the pleasure of reviewing Ananya Dance Theatre as a dance critic. Today, I have the greater pleasure of being the Director of Public Relations for the company.  Last spring, at Ananya’s insistence (she has a way of saying, “Camille, please, will you do this for me,” that’s so beguiling, I can’t say no), I participated in her Saturday morning warm-up/technique class that she leads for her dancers.

Using the Indian classical-dance form Odissi as her choreographic starting point, Ananya has innovated a movement style that articulates social critique while advancing artistic excellence. Her original choreographic model for practice and performance—generated on the women of color who were ADT’s founding members—transforms the company’s factual research and story sharing into metaphor and movement with the power to changes viewers’ lives—as you’ll witness during “Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass.”

Because it had been years since I’d taken a dance class of any kind, I warned her: Ok, but I’m only going to watch. So when I showed up in yoga pants and a t-shirt, ready to move (I had decided, well why not?), she was pleased. I positioned myself in the back of the room so I could watch the professionals, like Chitra, who embodies Ananya’s technique so thoroughly, and with such tremendous strength and grace, Ananya sometimes has her take over the class. And so, I flailed my way through. And experiencing Ananya’s singular, distinctive movement vocabulary was a revelation.
Understanding this technique or movement vocabulary is essential to a greater understanding of ADT’s work. So what did I learn? The movement was an intriguing combination of yoga, balletic fluidity, powerful transitions, intricate gestures and rigorous footwork! Now I know how, why, and from where these incredible dancers derive their strength and expressiveness, powerful feminity, intensity and truthfulness.

August 30, 2011

Conflict Minerals

By Negest L Woldeamanuale

How many times?

How many times before?

How many times before a child can walk 12 miles to school without hearing bullets busting rusted roofs?

How many times before a father could farm without seeing limbs on the brown soil that would feed his children, mother and sisters?

How many times before a kid turns a soldier in the name of the precious metal…future lost in struggle

How many times before a mother loses her daughter?

How many times before her dignity is torn?

How many times before a girl is raped in the name of your engagement ring?

How many times before the blood stops drowning the minds of the youth?

How many times before we brain wash our kids with glitters bearing the scars of their peers?

How many times before we realize beyond land and borders across the sea and sky sits a mother waiting for her child to return, a child that is mining out our pride?

How many times before villages are destroyed, schools ruined, and raiders honored?

How many times before conflicts are initiated by bracelets, earrings and chains?

How many times before death marks empowerment, pain grants pleasure and happiness bear muted sobs?

How many times before the bling bling fuels the bang bang?

How many times before genocide cuts and shines graves for our distant relatives?

How many times before life is indirectly affected, without knowing is robbed?

How many times before dreams are shot in the name of venom gifts wrapped with delusional vow?

How many times before we expose ourselves to reality instead of exposing innocents to cruelty?

How many times before…we stop deceiving ourselves?

How many times before we end following standards without knowing the reason, valuing nonsense to impress the system?

How many times before we avoid financing horror, conflicts, and terrorized metals?

How many times before we start mending the wound?

How many times before we stop ignoring the facts?

How many times before we see,

How many times before we change,

How many times more before?

 

August 27, 2011

Scars of Filigree

By Lela Pierce

embodied
memories
reaching behind the past to the
present emotion
of nothing.
washed and swept out
while
leaking puss of tears,
oozing mind juice out tiny orifice pores,
and
falling
falling, falling
in and out of
 
here
 
in and out of
reality
security
consciousness
knowledge
bliss
 
the ultimate embarrassment
 
is
 
ecstasy
 
is
 
the unknown
 
is
 
NOW
 
 
How do you know?
 
anything.
 
what is?
 
nothing.
 
 
i knowness:
 
a spiral
path within paths and circles within circles that can never be completed or followed at once.
 
 
How do you know when you’ve really let things go?
 
and
 
where exactly does IT go to?
 
and
 
what does it become?
 
These things creep into the crevices of our embodiment –
oscillate from past to present, mind to body to breath-
vapor to sky
 
…to nothing?
 
 
 
emotional traces
haunt
 
blown away
magnetic dust.
 
bloodless,
painless(?)
scars of filigree
 
habitual phantom quivers from an age-ed truth.
 
A foreign language of a distant self
trompsing through the forbidden forest of fears
 
mirrored traps
encapsulating movements
to an endless ripple of ecstasy

*…So i think this stuff came out after Laurie Carlos’s very intense emotional workshops last month as part of the recent work with ADT and the upcoming show Tushaanal….i let it sit for a while but thought maybe i should just risk sharing it in all its meritocracy now for some reason…just to recap what she did in the workshop: basically we sat in a circle and she started by acting (expressing) an emotion to us all very intensely… then she raised her left hand as a signal that she was finished. Then whoever felt drawn to go next interpreted/embodied that same emotion wherever they were at with it and then again raised their left hand as a signal of being done with it (no one was to interact with whoever’s turn it was)…it was very intense and it felt like everything kind of oscillated in and out of actually feeling the emotion vs. forcing it and pretending… im sure it was different for everyone but this is just some of the stuff that came up for me at the time…

 

August 25, 2011

Vow for the Price They Promised

By Laurie Carlos

Some of us have lives as women
Myths around dreams
Crystal clusters
An exchange for the life of a person
Crystal habits
Hardness /gravity /fracture
Color luster
Transparency of intent
Exchange
A woman
A child
Include streaks /jagged/ isometric
Life of both sisters
an exchange/ a specimen /
stunning
mouth full
opens
crushed
massive nuggets
settled turning up
Opaque
melted
Dance as these woman will
Rolled around in the various levels
of dust left behind by
the diggers
These are the women
who
shake loose all the dread
when
justification for preserving will bring a higher price
this is for the chance
stage
these stories
laced
with
gossip
trumped up with bribes
price it in its natural state
ignored
more
Bangles…….
GOLD
Something to believe
With a justice of quantity and a relevance of glow
Want …Want Want…
More piles to store and take
More
More
All the waste can only expand it
There is the beautiful reflection
The beautiful
Replacement of fear
Glitter
Glitter a whisper
DOWN THE NECK AND WE ARE ALL OF US
LACED l
Lightly
Flicker
Did you say they all were sold?
You will never find them again for such a good price
This is the third time they have turned a wife into better coinage
Could get more for a better one every time
Their value dropped
Flecks of color at the bottom of her shroud
Shiny foils roil in acid
Such beauty at first
Such shine out of the dark
To master the a house
To mine
The promise of
glitter
To wrench
the life in stone
for trade
for want
for acid
There is measure for labor
These are the profits for digging into the earth’s veins
We touch each thing hungry and wanting
Delight curls uneven until the measure is declared
Please sing some new song every time
We are smiling for the price promised
We are smiling in every direction
I8 carats
22
We hold back
Pay the price you promised
Trade
Barter away freedom for power
Vow for the price they promised

August 18, 2011

Hey Big Spender!

By Gina Kundan

Gold diggers, temporary wives, and ravenous babes coming to a gold mine near you!

Mothers desperate to feed their families, young girls trafficked, entrepreneurs seeking adventure and fortune. They come as merchants, as cooks. Some come by choice, some by force. They come for the promise of high earning potential. They operate as “temporary wives” and community developers. On rare occasions women work side by side with men in the mines, but usually—bound by strict gender roles—women access gold by providing services, selling comfort, creating community, developing social stability, and generally ensuring the well being of male miners.

Indeed the “oldest profession,” you’d be hard pressed to find any gold mine past or present that doesn’t have an accompanying sex “service” industry embedded in the social fabric of the surrounding community.   Within that society (like any other) is a strict hierarchy of stigma. Selling sex is all about intention and purpose. Out of work, out of options, need to feed your hungry children? Saintly martyr.  Like glamour and glitz and spending cash? Scandalous whore. Innocent 11 year old slave girl? Could go either way.  Love is apparently never part of this equation

 

August 16, 2011

Gold. Fire. Women's Sexuality... Thoughts?

By Chitra Vairavan

You know how when you enter that space of vulnerability, something hits you, melts you, makes you weak…that’s how I felt coming out of rehearsals and in life recently. Parallels in my life outside the studio and discussions and knowledge shared in the rehearsal space spurred these words and my own way of seeking clarity.

Gold:
Bought, sold, traded, devalued, objectified, valued, stolen, appreciated, curing, “pure,” mythical, cultural, part of nature, and most of all it stretches infinitely under heat…under fire.

Fire:
Bendy, fluid, spiritual, feared, destructive, beautiful, healing, and most of all allows for new growth.

…In relationship to women’s sexuality:
Do they pass through each other in relationship? Do they reflect each other? Do they inform each other? Are there similar experiences between the two? Are there different experiences? Are they one in the same, in a system of interactions where everything feeds off of each other, breaking the subject/object duality often used in the Western lens?

Are we controlled by gold or is gold controlling us? Are we gold? What does gold mean to you?
I don’t have the answers, but the abstract concepts and connections being made are inspiring to find friction in and work through. Appreciate the time spent. I believe there is true intimacy between women and gold, where objectivity doesn’t play a prominent role because the connections between both go far beyond that, considering our similar histories.

August 9, 2011

Delving Into Gold

By Gina Kundan

In our developmental process, dancers have unearthed an astonishing amount of information relating to gold. We use this material not only to educate ourselves about the subject matter, but to dig deep and examine the complex emotionality that motivates and inspires our work. Research, presentations, and discussions lead to choreographic workshops and ultimately create the emotional arc that serves as the foundation for Ananya Dance Theatre’s productions.

continued →

August 4, 2011

Designing Tushaanal: Elements of Gold

By Annie Katsura Rollins

Working with ADT is a gift as a designer.  The content, the ideas, the inspiration and the team; all of it is the kind of stuff that makes you want to put pen to paper and paper to stage.  This year, working on Tushaanal, has been no different.  After the close of Kshoy! in fall last year, we quickly got to work on this years production.  The timing of this design was truncated and hurried, as I was off to China in the beginning of February for a year on a Fulbright fellowship to research Chinese shadow puppetry.

continued →

August 2, 2011

Illuminations from Soraya M.

By Renee Copeland

I watched the film “The Stoning of Soraya M.” as research for last year’s production, Kshoy! Now, in this new project, Tushaanal, Soraya’s story persists in my mind, and I realize this is not a “new” project. Nothing is new when it comes to stories of violence and greed, told repeatedly with ragged breath by history.

continued →

July 28, 2011

Dust and the relationship to Gold

By Lori Young-Williams

I watched a movie the other night Dreams of Dust. Ananya said it would help with me writing the blog. I don’t know if it will help but it has stuck with me. I am still thinking about the images from the movie.

Picture a screen shot of the dessert. Not much, some trees, sand, rough land, and in the foreground small piles of sand, rock, mounds of rock and dust. The wind blows and the everywhere you look the hue is gold. The wind blows again and out of the ground up from the mound comes a dark face, dust caked on the face and in the hair. Flashlights along both sides of the head held on by a headband, and a bag of rocks. More heads and faces, male. Climbing out of these holes in the ground. These are the gold mines.

I was struck by the imagery of the people living most their lives digging for gold in the fox hole tunnels, lighting matches to make sure there is enough oxygen to breath. With pic axe and burlap bag the men go down and look for gold. One can almost feel the claustrophobia. Once back to the surface, they take their bags to the compound to hammer, bound the rock to see if there is any gold. Break up the rock and hope.

The movie was about a man whose wife told him to leave after their daughter was killed. The women in the movie were the typical Madonna/Whore dichotomy. One woman had a daughter and was allowed to stay on at the compound, after her husband died in a mine. She stood and watched the men go down and the men come up. She stood and sifted dust, and for any flecks of gold. The other women in the compound, around the mine, were looking to spend time with men who had money (gold) to spend. One woman said the main character was crazy for not wanting to find gold. That was the whole purpose for being there in the first place, almost the only reason for living.

The women were in the background, they held up the community through taking care: feeding, serving, and giving of themselves. And yet their lives are just as shifty and changing as the men. They too are looking to strike it rich. They want the creature comforts money/gold can provide.

But to get gold and keep it at this frontline, is hard. To rise up means someone must die. The bitter truth is one can be replaced. There are more out there willing to search for the gold, sift, break up rock, dig deep in the mines and lay down with the men to find the gold.

The land is speckled with wiry trees
vast colored in gold, tan, ochre
dust
fills cracks and cakes feet, hair and hands

Digging is hard, but the beer
afterwards will go down easy with a
Blue Blue – amphetamine
Women stand for hours
sifting dust, blown in
around, but the comfort of a body
will help for tonight

Women push to save lives and
keep the rhythm to get the work dona
Women push to connect with life through
gold, to put food on the table.
Dust
cakes the hands and fills
the lungs
Seeking the fire, the specks of glitter
to become the next rich one.
Leave the mines a big man,
Hopefully…

Leave the mines with a future of Comfort.
Go and come back with gold
help the family.

July 26, 2011

Violence, Destruction, and Complicity: Mining Practices that Bring your Bling

By Gina Kundan

Members of Ananya Dance Theatre began researching Gold and presenting findings in January 2011.

The first topic: Gold & The Democratic Republic of Congo was presented by former dancer Sherie Apungu. The northeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) holds hundreds of mines with a seemingly unlimited supply of gold. Are the miners and their supporting communities benefiting from these riches? Hardly. As one Congolese miner described it: “We are cursed because of our gold.  All we do is suffer.  There is no benefit to us.”   In fact, the discovery of the Congolese gold has created decades of violence and instability in the region, with various armed political factions battling for power and control.

The miners have no choice but to continue working regardless of who is in charge—resistance of any kind is met with torture, rape, and murder— according to Human Rights Watch, “more than sixty thousand people have died due to direct violence in this part of Congo alone.” Miners are forced to work in horrific conditions with a blatant disregard for safe mining practices.

Multinational corporations continue to forge partnerships and support political leaders to ensure continued profit from the region while also ensuring continued violence.  Human Rights Watch mentions AngloGold Ashanti—one of the world’s largest gold producers—a company that publicly boasts a commitment to corporate social responsibility while patently ignoring the human rights violations that keep productions flowing.

Similar situations can be found virtually anywhere gold has been discovered. Dancer Brittany Radke presented her research on Gold in Chile, a country that was discovered as a result of the Spanish quest for gold. Gold mining in Chile began in the late 16th century, but recent satellite technology has led to the discovery of gold deposits beneath glaciers in the Andes Mountains. Mining of this gold has been linked to rapid glacial melt and is negatively impacting local farmers and poisoning the local water supply.

Worldwide the desire to attain gold by any means seemingly outweighs the profoundly negative impact gold mining practices have on individuals and the environment.  In the next issue, I will share what we’ve learned about human desire and discuss the sex work industry in gold mining communities.

July 21, 2011

Cost of Desire, a poem - inspired by research and movement

The dancers and apprentices of Ananya Dance Theatre, find ways to interpret the information they are experiencing, learning, and researching. ADT’s apprentice Negest, has found her vessel in the form of words, a poem inspired from research and movement experience. We hope you enjoy!

Poem by Negest Woldeamanuale

We rise and fall
Rise and fall
Our backs tied to a string of hope
Rising and falling
In the holes of the desert
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
Scavenging for a stone
Digging for life
In ruined lands, polluted rivers, and destroyed forests
Breathing dust and silicon
Burrowing deep into the veins of earth
Betraying our ancestors’ soil
Feeding labor to our children
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
For rock, for bread, for illusion, for more
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
Addicted to terror, violence and struggle
Deceived by glitter and sparkle
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
Blinded, deafened, and unaware

Lost in scramble of want
Essentials forgotten
Greed exceeding need
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
Rushing to escape poverty
Refusing to see, hear and speak harm
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
The promised price fleeing
To western borders
Values elevated
With conflict and strife
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
In the glowing hues of dusk
Bathed in colors of gold
In mud-splattered skin
In contaminated wells
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
Panning for traces of the precious metal
For glittering beauty
Existing in remote and fragile corners
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
Drained in sand
In allure and fascination
Exploited deposits
Bidding to save fractions
Waiving to accept invitation to destruction
Bending for the system
Fetching horror
Legalizing trouble
We rise and fall

Rise and fall
Possessed by gold
In explosives, toxic gasses and collapsed tunnels
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
Waiting for stroke of luck
For Fruitless reverie
We rise and fall
Rise and fall
To quench our desire
In dreams of dust
In golden reality

July 19, 2011

Reflections on the May 14 Rehearsal of Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass

Contribution by Lori Young-Williams

My first time sitting through a rehearsal of Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass. They are currently working on the part where the women who have lived close to the gold mines, lost family, friends, lives friends decide to torch the place. Gold becomes flames. The gold of jewelry, flecks, and rocks of gold become golden embers, destroying what gold has made of their community, their lives.

Watching and getting the message through
swing  swing  swing  hold
Moving arms from shoulders down through
to the feet    Stomp
Dip, moving arm through the wind
Dip, swipe floor with leg
“Come out like a burst!” Ananya says…
“There’s a left and a right…”

And come they do.
With hands bending at the waist
turn and roll to the side
Clap!    Fire Burn

Lips of fire, women fan the flames
Pour gasoline, kerosene, anything
to ignite, the women
who become
the flames.

You can see this through the movement and placement of their hands, through the twisting and bending of the dancers bodies. The rise and fall as if wind is blowing, spreading the fire through the camp, the community, the mine. The fits and starts of fire is made into dance movement and gives life to something else…

Burn it all and rebuild. When fire burns the soil is fertile and gives life. The women who have lived through Gold, around the mines in the cities close to the mines are trying to find something new.

While at the rehearsal, Laurie Carlos popped in to go over the language of the performance. And I took away a line – The Promise of Glitter. The promise that gold will make one beautiful, rich, wanted. And yet the promise doesn’t. It doesn’t make you whole. The promise of glitter is cheap. It’s hard to get and easy to lose. Always, expecting it to fill something. And it doesn’t. The Promise of Glitter leads to the Birth of Flames.

Hunger…that’s the promise of gold.

July 12, 2011

Insight on our process

By Gina Kundan

Ananya Dance Theatre’s projects have always begun with researching the subject matter. In past years we have brought in leading experts to facilitate workshops that help dancers embody and articulate our movement vocabulary. This year we’ve taken a slightly different approach. Instead of bringing in outside experts to educate us about gold, we are educating ourselves and becoming our own experts. Dancers have been researching “Gold” in all of its many aspects and asking many questions: Where does it come from? How is it collected? What is the impact on the environment and communities? Why does it hold so much worldwide value?

Dancers have selected individual vantage points and are presenting their findings to the group. Together we’ve gathered an amazingly diverse array of perspectives on subjects like: mining in the Congo and South America, traditional customs and practices in diverse communities, Buddhist rituals in Thailand, The sex trade in gold mining towns, and exploring human desire.

Over the next several months I will be contributing gold research updates and sharing workshop reviews for this blog in effort to keep our supporters informed and engaged. In the next issue, I will share what we’ve learned about mining and its multiple impacts on environment and community.

July 7, 2011

Kartee is Riwa

By Lori Young-Williams

I was asked to be part of an artistic performance for Refugee & Immigrant Woman for Change (RIWC) – International Women’s Day at St. Catherine University. The performance was speaking to gender equity. I was the narrator, reading statements from various family and community members in a refugee woman’s life. The performance was an adaptation by Kao Kalia Yang to highlight to highlight findings from the RIWC focus groups conducted late last year.

I was Kartee, the narrator, the only one speaking through the performance as different family  and community members, dancers, wrapped a scarf around the women in the middle who were named Riwa. Kartee summoned these members to join Riwa on stage.

Here is my take on the performance and how it touched me. These are thoughts written the day of the performance, March 8, 2011.

Strong women are global

Kartee is Riwa. She lives inside Riwa’s body. She is part of Riwa’s community. She is part of her culture. Kartee has been feared in times past and present. But she is still with us. Riwa need not worry. Kartee is there. She just needs Riwa to light the spark…

As women we forget that being a leader is not a bad thing. Wishing, wanting, needing more is not a bad thing. Kartee is a spirit we must exercise.  When Kartee is silent, sometimes it doesn’t do us any good.

Kartee is the symbol of strength in the performance that was done by Ananya Dance Theater at the International Women’s Day Conference at St. Cate’s on March 8, 2011. Kartee is strength and Riwa has to do what she can to get through the days and doesn’t know what standing up for herself will bring her. But Riwa knows lying down is not the answer.

Kartee grows in Riwa. Riwa , her family, and her community learn to accept and appreciate Kartee. And Kartee finds her space and place in Riwa’s life.

As a woman of color living in the Midwest I have had to re-learn the importance of being true to myself. I knew how to be true to my family and my community, but not to myself. Somewhere along the way I learned through example, media, and social cues not to take care of myself first. That was selfish. But tapping into Kartee women regain themselves again and that makes their communities that much stronger.

Kartee lives within me and joins me, now on my journey – our journey.

I ask Kartee to take up space in our lives.

June 25, 2011

Reflections of social justice - a look to the future.

By Ananya Chatterjea

Life has its own way of teaching process and projects have their way of deciding the time they will need to manifest themselves. Indeed, when, in 2006, we were talking about embarking on making a piece about environmental justice, little did we realize that we had just landed on the tip of an iceberg! That one year of working in collaboration with environmental justice advocates transformed our creative process and allowed us to realize the urgent need for sustained artistic inquiry into these deep issues inside human lives.

So, what began as one piece in 2006 became a three-year trilogy about different facets of environmental justice, and what we learned in those three years, the questions we learned to ask, the hidden “footprints” and silenced human costs we learned to watch out for, have become part of our research and creative process forever.

These learnings carried us into the next project. I had already learned that in order for artistic work to create a ground swell of questions—which undergirds the social justice work in our creative process—we have to engage with the questions of injustice over a length of time, so that we are immersed in a sustained inquiry without looking to produce answers, so that we have the time to imagine the pain and loss as well as the resistance and alternative perspectives.

The focus on violence on women also reconnected me with some of my earliest work as a choreographer, but now I am able to connect specific issues of violence with larger systemic violences. So the anti-violence quartet which we launched in 2010 works through stories of lives of women through four naturally occurring elements that have been harnessed as capital in ways that have resulted in tremendous violence on women across the world, particularly in global communities of color: land, gold, oil, and water. It seems, as we are progressing in our research, both scholarly and creative, that we are ultimately etching the meta-story of how different forms of violence have dogged women’s lives through time.  Yet so often, we have failed to mark them as violence. And so often, these are stories hidden, stories that have slipped through the cracks of “important” stories and news items, stories that have to be re-imagined from fact and emotional connections.

As we are working on understanding how gold has worked in our lives, I am realizing that this is a very different project than last year’s, when we worked on land. The element we focused on last year was mud, land that sticks to skin, and we traced stories of displacement, exile, dislocation, replacement, and home. This year we are figuring out how stories of loving gifts of gold rings sit side by side with dowry deaths in India, the murder of anti-mining activists in Papua New Guinea intersects with the gold rush that partially fueled the apartheid regime in South Africa, how the mercury pollution of drinking water from artisanal gold mining in Colombia contests the valuation of incredible craftsmanship with gold across so many cultures, and how the inherent invaluable properties of gold makes it indispensable for use in electronic equipment that so many of us use daily, and that ultimately makes us all complicit with the violence that recurs in sites apparently far away from us. The dancers are asking: we find gold beautiful, we desire gold jewelry, but how do we account for the blood on that gold?

In asking these complex questions, I am working with amazing collaborators: the dancers of course, each of who brings powerful perspectives and artistry into the room, and the brilliant Laurie Carlos, who keeps on pushing us towards the more risky yet necessary artistic choices. The brilliant score that Laurie has been producing with composer and instrumentalist Greg Schutte, vocalist and instrumentalist Mankwe Ndosi, and vocalist Pooja Goswami Pavan, has brought ADT’s work to another dimension. As a range of cultural influences cross in and out of each other in the score, often dynamically coming together, sometimes pulling away from each other, brings alive one of the concepts I have treasured most in working with ADT’s fierce women: that these women are from somewhere specific culturally and politically, but they are also from nowhere and everywhere, they are women of the world, different yet able to dance together. They are women who are able share space and share artistry, but they do not look or dance the same. These are the most likely truth-tellers of these stories we are trying to dance, the griots that will carry us towards making different histories, imagining different possibilities for women…

I am excited to be working on Tushaanal, fires of dry grass, fires that are not high, but are persistent, spreading quickly and difficult to put out. In my mind, Tushaanal is also the fire of an inconsolable affliction. Indeed, when I think about the number of women who lose their lives, who are stuck in loss and pain, because of this continuing circle of violence, I am filled with tremendous grief and rage. I am channeling all of this emotion into the choreographic process, and hoping that Tushaanal can convey the multiple, contesting, emotions that make this fire golden.