Chennai poets join campaign against gender-based violence and show solidarity with survivors | News Bharat

A poetry reading was organized by The Prajnya Trust in collaboration with Mockingbirds poetry collective on 2nd December.

What does it mean to stand in solidarity with survivors of gender-based violence or sit in silence? That’s the question five poets tried to answer in two hours at a poetry reading session organized by Chennai-based non-profit organization The Prajnya Trust, which works towards gender equality and peace education.

From body politics to domestic violence, from religious identity to trans rights, from the politics of love to an attack on everyday sexism, the five poets who were part of the cast explored a range of themes at a poetry reading held on Friday 2 December . , as part of the organization’s 16-day campaign against gender-based violence. Some poets have also noted that some of their works are based on the basic theme of “the personal is political”. 2022 marks the 12th edition of the campaign.

Apart from popular names like writers Kutti Revathi, K Srilata and Vatsala, the event featured poets like Aaliyah Banu and Manushi Bharathi, who have embarked on their own poetic journeys in recent years. In her work, Aaliyah shared her experiences as a Muslim woman and performance poet, reflecting on the intersectionality of feminism and her own identity, among other topics. “You see, white women’s feminism is different, no one is fighting for a woman who wants to keep her hijab. Here’s a song for every time I said, at least she wasn’t killed,” said 22-year-old Aaliyah, an English literature student, during an appearance at the event.

“I picture myself dying on the road, with a gun on my shoulders, surrounded by people who don’t know how to help me. Their hands: numb. But they won’t call the rescuers, because maybe they don’t want to. Because someone told them I was no longer an Indian. They are retracing my ancestry to see if I have any Indian blood in me,” went the lines from Aaliyah’s second installment.

When asked by the audience about her decision to embrace her Muslim identity in her songs, Aaliyah quipped, “When people look at me, the first thing they notice is that I’m a Muslim wearing a hijab, and it becomes my identity. And this is also my identity,” he says. Aaliyah says she understands the risks that come with the current political climate, but she doesn’t shy away from voicing her opinions.

Popular Tamil lyricist and poet Kutti Revathi recited the lines in a poignant piece on honor killing titled “Trees of Our Land”: “Engal naatin marangalil, kulaigalai pol thonguvadharkendra, kaathalithargal pengalum aangalum. (Men and women loved each other, except that they are hung from the trees of our land like bunches of bananas).”

Kutti Revathi who penned lyrics from songs from movies like Aruvi and Marjanas well as the author of numerous poetry collections including Mulaigal, commented: “The performers really gave a panoramic view of women’s voices. Each story had a different perspective. Their parts were not only personal but also political. It was also interesting to see how the poets try to express their voice, because it is not easy to do.”

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The close reading event, attended by nearly 50 people, was organized by Prajnya in collaboration with Chennai-based poetry collective Mockingbirds, co-founded by theater artist and poet Michelle Ann James and the InKo Centre. Swarna Rajagopalan, Managing Trustee Prajnya and Michelle noticed that the poetry reading event was part of most annual campaigns. “Our aim is to encourage people to face the reality of violence and talk about it openly, without mincing words, without euphemism or any stigma. The most effective way to communicate is through art and poetry. They could give you pamphlets and handouts, but you wouldn’t read them. But it’s a journey that goes from the performers’ hearts to ours very effectively. We wanted people to come back, moved by the power of words and human emotions,” says Swarna.

Manushi Bharathi, recipient of the Yuva Puraskar Sahitya Akademi Award, who has been writing since 2008, is at the event. Children’s writer Manushi believes that stories have a great influence on children as they grow up and that if told with sensitivity, stories can go a long way in shaping and guiding children’s minds.

Writer and academician K Srilata and her mother Tamil writer Vatsala (80) were also in the lineup. Known for her poetry collections such as Suyam and Naan Yenn kavingar Aaga Villai, Vatsala says she started writing in her 50s. The writer, who in some works looks at family relationships through the lens of gender-based violence and sexism, says her poems were inspired not only by her experiences, but also by the evolving dialogue about feminism. “When I started writing, I didn’t read feminist theories, and yet women told me that they read my poems as a group. It reassured me that what I write also reflects the truth of other women around me,” she told TNM.

Her daughter Srilata, a fiction writer and academic,’s selection for the poetry reading session included some personal pieces and some commenting on the attack on the arrest of activists in the Bhima Koregaon case and the arrest of activist Natasha Narwal and her late father, activist Mahavir Narwal in 2020. In When asked about the attack on activists and the response from public intellectuals and academics, Srilata commented, “The only thing we can do is write to take a stand whenever we can. Sure, it’s terrifying, but we can’t choose not to speak up. We have a responsibility and we cannot live in a bubble.”

The 16-day Prajnya campaign, which includes online sessions with a handful of offline events, began on November 25 and will conclude on December 10.

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