Friday, April 26, 2013

Sbek Thom: Cambodia Shadow Puppets

In New York City with a fire flickering on a large flat screen behind the white shadow screen, the ancient art of Sbek Thom came to life as a part of the Seasons of Cambodia Festival. The Shadow Puppet Troupe of Wat Raja Bo from Siem Reap, Cambodia performed an excerpt from the Reamker (Cambodian telling of the Ramayana).

The show was beautifully coordinated, between the narration, puppeteers, dancers and musicians. After the show I spoke with the artists who shared with me that the tradition was revived 15 years ago by monk who was the last carrier of this cultural form in the Wat Bo Temple. I was told that puppets are drawn and carved individually, without tracing pervious puppets, an individual puppet can take up to 40 days to make!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Memories of the Future

When I came to the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance tonight I felt a Deja Vu. It was directly across the street from The Point, where I brought my 2007 Forum Theatre project I Want Yo Man! So 6 years later, I'm back in Hunts Point for another Forum Theatre project, Memories of the Future, a partnership between Theatre of the Oppressed NYC and Majora Carter (pictured above). This piece was about the Juvenile Justice System and the Majora Carter Group is seeking to use the audience interventions as material to help them develop an alternative program for court involved youth. Awesome!  Did you see Majora Carter's TED Talk Greening the Ghetto?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Let's Talk Trash

Arzu and I presented "Paint it! The Art of Urban Environmental Justice Education in India"at the Diversity in Research & Practice Conference at Columbia University's Teachers College. This was based on Arzu's mural projects with Srishti students to address the waste management issues of Bangalore. Read more about it in The Alternative, Times of India and the Deccan Herald.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tholu Bommalattha: Andhra Shadow Puppets

In a village outside of Dharmavaram, Andhra Pradesh, Dalavai Chalapathi Rao and I laugh as we play with a giant Hanuman shadow puppet. Though Tholu Bommalattha (Andhra Shadow Puppetry) may be considered a dying artform, it's alive and well in this village.

The large puppets, which are made from goat skin, are painted and holes are punched with custom tools (pictured above).

Whole extended families are involved in puppet making, music, performance and the associated crafts that the artists sell at crafts fairs.

Our hosts brought us into a dark room and gave us a shadow puppet show with the light pouring through the window. The coordination of the music with the brightly colored puppets made for quite a show. I'm planning to bring the Shadow Liberation team here in July! (photo credits Sudebi Thakurata.)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dhaatu Puppet Festival

This elephant shadow puppet is lighting up the stage at the Dhaatu Puppet Festival put on by Dhaatu, a Bangalore-based puppetry troupe. Although this festival was intended for children, the focus on traditional stories through ancient puppetry forms was fascinating to me. I look forward to connecting Shadow Liberation with Dhaatu in the future.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mud Furniture Building

Every now and then I've got to get muddy with Jackson and Green Chakra, the eco-building apprenticeship made up of youth from Bangalore slum communities. Here I am out in Kanakapura mashing mud for some some mud furniture.

See the bottles in the mud wall and the built in mini shelves? The work of Green Chakra has come a long way since 2010, when I helped them build a composting toilet. Keep up with them on Facebook and read the article about their work in Bhoomi Magazine.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hip Hop Theatre Open Cypher

At this gathering of Hip Hop and Theatre performers, we blurred the boundaries between art forms to forge dynamic storytelling structures. Through freestyle, cypher and theatre games we established a creative language and made short scenes that integrated all the art forms in the room. Thanks to Yours Truly for hosting and participating with free spirits. I'm looking forward to integrating local talent and Hip Hop Theatre elements into Shadow Liberation's upcoming production.

Monday, April 1, 2013

World Social Forum Tunisia

Yes, another world is possible! The World Social Forum transported me back to 1999, organizing for the protest against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. There were people from around the world, championing issues ranging from sustainable development to opposing violence against women.

Pictured above is Corrine Kumar, inspiring activist, storyteller and friend. This is at one of the many session put on by El Taller. Their work with the Courts of Women is quite dynamic, as they center the experience around witnessing with an emphasis on community healing.

Above is an image from Forum Theatre Tunisie, who gave workshops and performances in the World Social Forum. It was a reminder of how images have the power to transcend language, as we explored issues ranging from voter apathy, to the European horse meat scandal.

For International Day for the Elimination of Racism this theatre group from the south of Tunisia performed a piece of musical street theatre celebrating their identity as Tunisians to bring to light the racism that exists within Tunisian society.

Riding the Metro and walking through the streets gave me a real feel for daily life in Tunis.

I went hiking with Rando Camp Club in the Mountains of the border of Algeria, and soaked in the natural beauty of the countryside.

Historic Sidi Bou Said was sunny and picturesque on the day I visited with my friends. But don't be fooled by look of the water, I jumped in and I can tell you, it was freezing cold!

What I'm taking with me from Tunisia, besides some painted bowls, is the strength of friendship. The friends I made were so kind and generous right off the bat, I think Tunisia has a lot to teach the rest of the world about what it means to be friends.