Unique dance and puppetry show has Chennaiites in awe

Artist Seema Kohli

Five dancers in black attires, each holding a different musical instrument with their faces covered by mirror masks danced on-stage in circles towards the audience. So, when a person looks at any one of the dancers, they will be looking at their own reflection. The performance was unique and astonishing.

The purpose behind this act was to establish the concept of Sanskrit Mahavakya, ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ which means, ‘You are that’ or ‘That you are’.

As you look at your reflection through the mirrored faces of the dancers, you are reminded that even if we speak different languages, we remain the same.

This was how Seema Kohli, a contemporary artist based in New Delhi, kick started her show, ‘Retracing Paradise: The Word for the World’ at the Puppetry Festival held at Phoenix Market City, Chennai recently. The Puppetry Festival was conceptualised and curated by art historian and designers Dr Annapurna Garimella and her organisation, Jackfruit Research & Design.

Speaking to News Today, Seema informs that she got the idea to organise such a show while working along with her father’s autobiography. She reveals that the theme of her show is to evoke that earth is home for everyone. Seema says that she started her journey of expressing this theme through her paintings and later explored through different mediums like dance.

Followed by the beautiful act of the mirrored dancers, there was another dance performance that explained the concept of borders. Here, the performers kept changing places on-stage. Some dancers kept shifting while there were others who remained still. The performers used ropes as they gracefully moved across the stage leaving the audience spell bound.

Seema Kohli then proceeded with her show by reading verses from her father’s autobiography which she co-wrote. Seema unfolded memories from her days as a young girl and about her father who hails from Jhelum, Pakistan. She informs that her father later settled in Delhi after the partition. Seema narrated about the similarities of their childhood days.

“I found that only times change and people very rarely change”, She read out loud. “Memories are seamless and borderless. The native in you and me resides in the homeland of memories that just cannot be partitioned. Memories cannot be patrolled in the borders. You may travel the world, you may change your language, your religion, your name, your identity but one thing you cannot change is the colour of you native place, the soil from which you have been casted.”

She continued, “You may be in any corner of the world but your identity remains rooted to the earth. Again and again I bow in gratitude to the mother earth, my birth place that equipped me and empowered me and saw me across all stages and check posts of life joyfully.”

The reading session was followed by a puppet show which depicted the idea of forceful and voluntary migration of people, from one place to another. ‘Two years ago, I found puppetry very interesting,’ she says, ‘I tried to mix my show’s theme – migration of people – through this medium.’

( The article is written by SHARMADA V & SUHA NISVIYA S A. Photos by SUHA NISVIYA S A)

NT Bureau