A Midsummer’s Starry Night

An Englishman, distinguished in his appearance, was pacing to and fro, by a bench in Hyde Park. He was brimming with angst, as he clenched his fist tighter, crumbling a bundle of papers he held. The fallen, brittle autumn leaves were crushed by his each step.

A Dutch gentleman was sitting on this park bench. Bent forward, hunched, fingers locked. He glanced upon the Englishman’s hands. The dark ink seemed to have found it’s way into the folds of his hands, akin to a dried up river bed. His gaze followed him, and matched his pace. The ink on the Englishman’s hands matched the myriad oil paints on the Dutch man’s withered fingers. 

The Englishman glanced sideward at him and jerked a swift second look. He walked towards the bench, as if responding to the Dutch man’s invitation. 

As the Englishman sat down by the Dutch, their different attires stared at each other. It was as if the Englishman lived in Elizabethan age and the Dutch man was from the nineteenth century. To a passerby, it would seem an instance of time travel. 

“Lend me your ears.” The Englishman started an abrupt conversation, hoping the stranger is a good listener. 

But alas! Like a lot of his plays, this too turned out to be an ironic tragedy!

He noticed the Dutch man’s Bandaged Ear and pain in his sullen eyes. It was as if the Dutch man had chopped off a part of his own ear! 

Images from the Internet. Courtesy Sapan Satia

And so they sat in silence, the poet/ playwright Englishman and the despaired artist Dutch man wondering what the Sunflowers on the Wheatfields of Cypresses would smell like on The Starry Night of this Midsummer’s Night Dream.

©Helina Desai & Nazneen Dharamsey, 2017. All rights reserved.

All the Awadh’s a stage when Shakespeare’s in Lucknow!

One of the most renowned figures in Literature, William Shakespeare is every literati’s stairway to heaven. Growing up, reading was not merely a hobby, but an escape route, into a world so surreal, so sacred, a world you could truly call your own.

So when Shakespeare’s First Folio was showcased in the city for the first time, our hearts literally skipped a beat. All his works in one book, published in 1623 was up for viewing at the Prince of Wales Museum (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya)

The First Folio – one of the most valuable printed books in the world — sold at a Christie’s auction in New York for $6.16 million in 2001. This is the first time it has travelled outside of the UK and was exhibited till the 8th of March this year.

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The First Folio at CSMVS. The book has been kept open on the first page of ‘The Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet” Picture courtesy: Diana Philip. 

With at least 38 plays, 154 sonnets and over 1700 words contributed to the English language, his works are still an integral part of curriculum and his phrases are what our conversations are made of till date!

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Picture courtesy: Diana Philip.

A major influence in theatre and Bollywood, Shakespeare’s works have been adapted far and wide. From Omkara; a rustic U.P. adaptation of Othello to Haider, an adaptation of Hamlet set amidst the insurgency-hit Kashmir conflicts of 1995 and civilian disappearances. The Shakespeare comedy theatre festival which ended yesterday saw the comical interpretations of Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear and As You Like It which were written & directed by Rajat Kapoor.

For the love of Shakespeare, our love for kebabs and our very special Lucknowi friends; we thought what better way than to pay tribute to the great literary master in the avatar of the great Indian Nawab.

So if Shakespeare was in Lucknow, what would his famous words be?

Shakespeare in Lucknow

Shakespeare in Lucknow

Shakespeare in Lucknow

Shakespeare in Lucknow

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©Helina Desai & Nazneen Dharamsey, 2017. All rights reserved.

The Art of Feminism

So much is said on the 8th of March every year. From celebrating the achievements of women in history across various platforms to empowering the modern day woman with equal rights.

However, what really caught my attention was Snapchat’s new filters of Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie and Rosa Parks as the brand’s way to commemorate women on this day.

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“In the age of the selfie, Frida is considered to be the first selfie artist. She told a story of love, life, strength and passion through her self-portraits.” 

– Beatriz Alvarado from the Frida Kahlo Corporation told CNET in a statement.

Notwithstanding the debate this move sparked with regard to the whitening of Frida Kahlo face or the fact that Marie Curie probably never wore smoky eyeliner or fake lashes in lab! Narcissism doth beat feminism thus!

But the Feminist art movement actually dates back to the late 1960’s amidst the fervor of anti-war demonstrations as well as civil and gay and lesbian rights movements. Feminist artists sought to change the world around them through their art; through cultural influences that would transform stereotypes.

Art then, was not merely for aesthetic admiration, but an avenue that could also incite the viewer to question the social and political landscape that would eventually lead to equality. Before feminism, the majority of women artists were denied exhibitions and gallery representation based on the sole fact of their gender.

The Dinner Party (1974-1979)

Artist: Judy Chicago

The Dinner Party is one of the most well-known pieces of Feminist art in existence and is permanently housed at the Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. The installation consists of a large banquet table with place settings for thirty-nine notable women from history and mythology. The settings have gold ceramic chalices and porcelain plates painted with butterfly- and vulva-inspired designs. In addition to the thirty-nine settings, there are the names of 999 other women painted on the tiles below the triangular table. The Dinner Party participates in the feminist revision of history, initiated during the 1970s, in which feminists worked to re-discover lost role models for women, rewriting the past that had previously only included male voices. In the combination of intricately wrought textiles, tile, and porcelain, Chicago reclaimed the realm of “high art” to include what had traditionally been relegated to the lower status of “women’s work.”

Reference: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-feminist-art.htm

the dinner party installation - judy chicago

“Do I still hope that feminist art can make a difference in the world? My answer is yes. I continue to believe that we need an art that can help us see the world through other people’s eyes and thereby lead us to a future where the world will be made at least a little more whole.”

This women’s day, let art take over. Let the sense of creativity take over our sense of judgment. Let’s understand Feminism for what it truly stands for; equality.

©Nazneen Dharamsey, 2016. All rights reserved.