SWEDISH SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES NETWORK
theatre group performed in Stockholm
The Bangladeshi Theatre troupe Rupantar, part of a Khulna-based NGO working professionally with drama, dance, and music, gave performances in Stockholm 27–28 March 2004. Rupantar has an ambition to increase people’s consciousness about democracy, equality, environment and children’s rights through their plays. They have also drawn attention to the plight of Bangladesh’s unique mangrove forests, the Sundarbans. This is combined with with developing a new way of expressing themselves called ALT (Alternative Living Theatre), inexpensive performances based on body language and frequent use of make-up. The performances in Stockholm were arranged by Svensk Teaterunion, and took place at Aliasteatern and at Etnografiska Museet.
Besides pure research work Christina Nygren has been travelling extensively in Asia, particiating in workshops and seminars. In 1992 she visited the traditional Dance Festival in Khajuraho and the Festival of Modern Theatre in New Delhi, and later on participated in an International Seminar on the ”Impact of International Interaction in Contemporary Theatre” and a theatre festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In 1994 she worked as a visiting lecturer in Bangladesh, invited by the Centre for Asian Theatre and the universities in Dhaka and Chittagong. In 1995 she took part in a joint project on ”Probable Application of Western Drama in Indian Theatre” together with Kamaluddin Nilu, Bangladesh. Exchange contacts were also established with the National School of Drama in New Delhi and Kolkata University.
Nygren was co-ordinator of an international seminar with lectures and discussions on ”Theatre in human life” in November 1996, at the occasion of the Stockholm University Dept. of Theatre’s 50th anniversary. In January 2003 she was the keynote speaker at the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR's) world conference in Jaipur, India, speaking on ”Travelling Theatre in Japan, China, India and Bangladesh”.
Since January 2004 Christina Nygren is working as a project leader for a collaboration project in the field of theatre and dance for children and youth in Southeast and East Asia (funded by Sida and the Swedish International Theatre Institute, ITI), and she is also since August 2004 assigned to undertake an extended project proposal in the same region, including Vietnam, Laos and China.
Besides this she is also on part-time project leader involved
in a five-year project called ”Voices of the Children” (Barnens Röst),
aimed at strengthening children’s theatre in Asia. This project
is also funded by Sida and includes an exchange of Swedish and Indian/Bangladeshi
theatre groups during 2004 and 2005. The first group to visit Sweden was
the Rupantar group from Khulna, Bangladesh, that performed in Stockholm
in March 2004 (see box above to the right).
In February 2005 the Swedish puppet theatre group Tittut visited Bangladesh, where they organised a workshop in Khulna. Another two theatre groups have visited India/Bangladesh recently as paret of the Sida project, namely Teater Pero from Stockholm and Slava Theatre from Huddinge. More information about the project.
The Voices of the Children project was completed in 2009, and has now resulted in the publication of a book, entitled ”Theatre for Development. Experiences from an international theatre project in Asia”. On Wednesday 16 September 2009, a book release party was held in Stockholm, at Teater Påfågeln, St Eriksgatan 84. The project leader, Dr. Christina Nygren participated along with Ms. Ann Mari Engel, General Secretary, Svensk Teaterunion.
Rudraprasad Sengupta from the theatre group Nandan in Kolkata, India, also participated, talking about Nandan’s long work to engage children and youth from vulnerable groups in theatre activities.
As an activity completely separate from the Sida project
Christina Nygren in March 2005 organised a tour to Sweden of ten folk
musicians, dancers and singers from Purulia, in the western part of the
Indian state of West Bengal, to Sweden in March 2005.
The group gave a performance called ”Bengali Night” featuring suggestive so-called jhumu music and nachni dance (by Shonda Rani), at Södra Teatern in Stockholm on Friday 11 March 2005. A group of baul singers from the same region also took part in the show.
The day before the performance in Strockholm, on Thursday 10 March 2005, Christina Nygren organised a seminar on ”Traditional Bengali theatre, culture and music” with the ten artists from Purulia. The seminar was held at Tonsalen in the Slava Theatre in Huddinge, south of Stockholm. Shonda Rani danced along with Balaram Singh Sardar, playing the madhol drum (photo to the right). More information on the Huddinge seminar.
In previous years she has similarly engaged in suggesting, facilitating and introducing many other Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi artists coming to Sweden for guest performances at e g Göteborg Dance- and Theatre Festival in 2000 and 2002, and the Re:Orient festival in Stockholm 2003. As a free lancer she even produced a number of programs for Swedish Radio with Baul artists from Bangladesh.
A 7,5 credits intermediate course on Non-Western Theatre and Dance is held every year, in March and October. The course is directed by Christina Nygren. The course aims to provide knowledge about theatre and dance within a limited geographical area with a common cultural background outside the Euro-American theatre tradition. The course includes theatre history with an introduction of source material and an analytical survey of structure and patterns in performances and dramas. The course also aims to increase conciousness of intra-cultural problems and to provide a global perspective.
In September 2009, Prof. Willmar Sauter received a SASNET planning grant, for the organisation of an interdisciplinary workshop entitled ”Interdisciplinary Approaches to Marginalized Performance Practices in India”. More information about the 2009 SASNET planning grants.
The aim was to bring together scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds to examine whether and/or how the marginalized performance practices in India reflect and respond to changing social, political and cultural conditions.
Abstract: Any performative practice offers a broad range of possibilities for conceptual, contextual, critical and aesthetic analysis of the society and the aspirations of the society members. Our intention is to shed light on India’s marginalized performance practices from inter- and intra-disciplinary perspectives exploring both conceptual premises and applications, as well as means of preserving and mediating the performances to the scholars and wider audiences for further investigation. The issue of marginalized groups in the Indian society has attained interest only in the recent decade and unless the oral performance practices are made known and available, the tradition will likely remain marginalized.
Marginalized performance practices are understood here as (i) performances which fall in the category of folk theatre (contrasted to institutionalized ‘high’ theatre) in its broad sense including narration, recitation, dialogue, singing and dancing; (ii) performances practiced by performers belonging to the marginalized groups (adivasis, low caste groups, dalits, religious minorities, gender related minorities such as females and the third gender, and sexual minorities); (iii) performances employing not officially recognized local and regional languages and dialects; (iv) performances set up in geographically and politically peripheral locations such as interstate border regions or suburban neighborhoods. One or more of the categories qualify for the definition of a marginalized performance.
The workshop, held in Ytterjärna 2–5 June 2010, opened with presentations
and discussions of the current research that each of the participants is or
has been involved in.
Aspects of terminology, definitions and methods were rapidly included into the group's reflections. Theatre, dance, rituals, ceremonies, linguistic aspects as well as isues of documentation, research aims and possibilities were intensively discussed during two days. Also ethical and epistemological questions were raised. Based on the discussions and on the presentations of audiovisual materials, the group decided to pursue the establishment of an India-based project, called 'Marginalized Performance Practices: Documentation Project'. Physically, a data base will be built up, using already existing facilities at JNU in New Delhi with support from the University of Hyderabad. The collaboration with departments at Stockholm University (Theatre and Dance, Indology, Computer Science) will be coordinated by NCI. The participants of the workshop agreed upon a statement outlining the overall purpose of the project, terms of participation and perspectives on its future development.
Besides Prof. Sauter and Associate Professor Christina Nygren from the Dept. of Musicology and Performance Studies, researchers at a number of other Swedish and Indian departments participated in the workshop:
At Stockholm University:
– Dr. Mirja Juntunen, Lecturer at the Dept. of South and Central Asian Studies and ForSCAS (and Director of the Nordic Centre in India).
– Researcher Nikos Dimitrakas, Dept. of Computer Science
– Prof. H.S. Shiva Prakash, Dean of the Faculty School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Prof. Prakash regularly lectures on ‘Documenting Traditional and Marginalized Performance’ at the Department of Performing Arts at JNU.
– Ass. Prof. Bishnupriya Paul, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU
– Prof. B. Anandhakrishna, Head of the Sarojini Naidu School of Performing Arts, University of Hyderabad, who has documented a large number of performance traditions of South India.