June 15, 2021

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Agni Mars: The story of breaking down walls

When you enter the house, the first thing you see is a huge orange mask with a flame of fire on its head. Around it are some colorful paper garlands, plastic hand socks, clothes, jewelry, hair braids and many other items pasted on the walls. A shell placed in front of a glass door in a corner next to it. Above it is a dance costume made of a mixture of orange, pink and blue. On the opposite wall, artist Rajini Raoza has made a number of small books as part of her work, based on her experience working with a girl dancer in Kushtia. Visitors can collect the book for free from the bookshelf arranged on the wall if they want.

Next to it is a photo album where the artist wants to say – she is not a woman, but she has a vagina. She compares her lips to her vagina, adding to it the various comments she has received from people of different sexes. Beside him, a video of a performance continues, at the beginning of which artist Rajini Raoja tied many rakhis in the hands of the audience. When the rakhis are opened, the viewer will discover the various hateful conversations collected by the artist from the dating apps, where the effort is seen to be nothing but a sexual object. And this is the first relationship of artist Rajini Rao with the mythical character Agni Devta.

Just as a person’s gender identity does not matter when it comes to cooking, one might like to wear a sari, but the questions he must face are, “Who are you?” Women or men? Or cross dresser? Or the third sex? Or are you a transgender? ” Through this installation art, artist Rajini Raoza brought that question to the audience about the male system and its construction. During the coronavirus epidemic, he arranged the whole thing in the light of his own loneliness, duality and various experiences of dating apps. When he himself was going to work in a gown-like outfit to see in his village, he had to face the same question. He seemed to be instantly separated from the town, only because of the distinctive features of his dress and way of life. So where is the existence of the millennial friendship and coexistence we are talking about? This question started his research on girl dance. At one stage of working with them in Bheramara, Kushtia, the artist felt that like the poisonous snakes in their Manasamangal or Padmapuran, their lives were strained and there were many questions about their social acceptance. These experiences came in many ways in the escape of his writing ‘Sari Upakhyan’. Although sari is an integral part of their joys and sorrows and the ups and downs of life, they have to face the question of denying the sari in the context of sexual identity in a rural background. In the words of the song of the artist Sherebul, it is like this:

The same thing happened to my forehead

What should I read?

The boy forbade and said, “Father, you have been doing this for so long, now leave this path, play another song.” Don’t wear sari and do this song in unhealthy areas. Now my friends make fun of me and say that my father wears a sari and dances.

What am I going to do?

You are with Sarigo – happy and sad

Sarigo with Thek Thek, Thekko Mor Ange

Even at the time of death, stay with me

Several years ago, Rajini herself wanted to perform a classical Bharatnatyam in the guise of a female dancer. Her dance guru said, “You can’t dance like this. I can’t keep any Kinnar in my team. ”

With that in mind, Rajini wanted to use the ‘girl dance’ as a performance form to present the story of the fire god to the audience. Because this practice has been present in this subcontinent as a part of our culture for hundreds of years.

One of the main characters in this work is Agni, who is a Vedic deity, son of Aditi and Kashyapa and husband of Swahar. Fire is literally made from fire. There is a verse in the Veda which says that fire is born by the friction of two woods, therefore fire is two-dimensional. Which clearly indicates that the friction between the two woods is actually a symbol of female homosexuality.

Despite being the wife of Agni, there is talk of a romantic touch with Shiva. In addition to his marital status with the god Som Dev, he is mentioned in many texts as a bisexual deity. However, no book has properly evaluated these identities in describing bisexuality or Shiva-fire. Rather thinking as an intersex person

The way the sexual ambiguity of the Ramayana Mahabharata is celebrated or the way contemporary queer theory is glorified, the response is different when it comes to real life in our subcontinent. So maybe at the center of this arrangement is a mask, which has been used as a symbol in the story of the transformation.

In the Vedas it is said that fire is white like Aditya or the sun. Again it has been said somewhere that he is black. Sometimes she is orange and sometimes she is blue. Just like his character, it is possible to build his character by choosing any color, so the abundance of orange color on the mask is noticeable. Artist SF Rahman and his assistant H Ahmed helped artist Rajni Raoza in making this mask. Collecting materials from Chawkbazar and surrounding areas of old Dhaka. In this context, artist SF Rahman said, “Agnidev is both a woman and a man at the same time, so this issue has been given the most importance in research in masks. There are many more people in our society who hold this duality. Many of them have taken part in our mask making workshops and presented the subject in their own way. The opinions of many of them have also played a role in making this mask for us. ”

Two performances, ‘Agni Mangal’ and ‘Sari Upakhyan’, were performed at Tehai’s studio on January 30 this year. At the beginning of the ‘Agni Mangal’ performance, Rajini Raoza cut her white costume with a small pair of scissors and scattered small pieces of paper of different colors from there. Also in that presentation a lot of small paper of different colors has been used which is basically taken from the concept of different colors of fire. Bright orange and pink have been used as colors in performance costumes. Along with the conventional color of fire, the psychological philosophy of the character has been given priority in choosing this color.

The entire installation has resorted to writing many times to facilitate communication with the audience or to reach a wider audience but never intentionally used gay, lesbian, bisexual, LGBT or rainbow flags, which is one of the most important aspects of this work. According to Rajini, before British imperialism, people of many identities lived in the subcontinent with their ambiguity without facing any question and there was no law then that looked at them as unnatural or created a gazette as transgender to separate recognition and development.

What we are repeatedly confronted with in the contemporary reality is that the acceptance of all these ambiguous identities in civil society and in the media is created only by having a certain type of dress, hairstyle and mannerisms. So the question that remains as a visitor is whether the kind of knowledge that the artist has tried to create through his research will actually be able to shatter our post-colonial hegemonic culture?

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In the context of contemporary reality, Tehai started its journey in 2016 with the aim of creating a kind of connection between different branches or mediums of industry. The organization has organized various events in the last two years at a place in old Dhaka. Besides Bangladesh, two artists from Germany and Australia have worked with Tehai as invited artists. Tehai organizes a variety of experimental performances, community art, film, theater, dance and literature, as well as regular chats. Tehai Studio is also used for various workshops, lessons or rehearsals.

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Little Boxes is an organizer and occasionally writes about cultural events. This article or section does not cite its references or sources.