Patra: struggles of female artists of South Asian Diaspora, in Melbourne

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Reinstating their difference whilst reshaping their sense of belonging five accomplished female artists from the South Asian Diaspora got together to tell their stories in Melbourne, recently.

Stage and screen combined in Patra an inspiring documentary theatre production created by Shastram TV under the creative direction of Ghirija Jeyarraj.

Ghirija Jeyarraj

Patra provided an insight into the lives, art, struggles and roles of Monica Singh Sangwan, Dr Priya Srinivasan, Christina Prakanthan, Janani Venkatachelam and Ghirija Jeyarraj in relation to Indian classical dance and Australia.

According to Ghirija, practising this art form is hard in modern society but in the Arts hub of a Western Country the challenges are much steeper.

The sentiment was further endorsed through glimpses of the practitioner’s lives and journey as they untangled the many factors that defined their success in Indian arts in Australia.

The live performance on stage interplayed with the documentary to create a stimulating conversation between the seasoned artists and their enthralled audience.

The event also marked the relaunch of Shastram TV. Shastram is Ghirija’s ongoing project to inspire and educate many on the journey of dance and art. Having met many wonderful artists and enthusiast around the world she has recorded and shared their journey in an attempt to spread the art and knowledge of Indian Classical dance.

Ghirija’s handles her moving portraits with expertise as she is familiar with the complex, codified language of the dance forms and the artists stories resonate with her own.

“I am currently discovering my own role in the arts world and I could relate to the artists, at different levels, “ claimed Ghirija. I also understand how artists need to integrate their intuitive and experimental side with the structure, values and compositions of their art,” she added.

Monica Singh Sangwan, Odissi practitioner and Principal at Sohamasmi dwelt on her experience of teaching Odissi in Australia. She also spoke about her passion for encouraging others to find their own creativity and artistic enjoyment through art.

Monica Singh Sangwan, Odissi practitioner

Dr Priya Srinivasan, dancer, choreographer, writer, Creator of Talking dances and theatre producer spoke about her personal experience of growing up in Australia and navigating the art world here.  She emphasised on the real struggles in getting funding, support and success as a multicultural artist. 

Dr Priya Srinivasan

Christina Prakanthan, Bharatnatyam practitioner, Founder of Matyatharu School of Performing Arts and President BAAVA offered a diverse perspective of feeling accepted and encouraged as an artist in Australia in comparison to her native Sri Lanka. She also outlined the issues faced by her as an arts teacher and how she manages the expectations of students, parents and community.

Christina Prakanthan

Janani Venkatachelam, Kuchipudi practioner and Senior Management Consultant remembered inheriting her mother’s love for classical dance. With immutable demands placed on her time Janani shared how she accommodated her passion for dance in her life routine along with her career and family.   

Janani Venkatachelam

The choreography of the dancers, with no exception, was expressive and emotionally intense. The element of frisson made more dynamic with their personal stories in the background.

Vocalist Uthra Vijay

An engagement between the artist’s inherited identity and the orientation towards their adopted country made for an interesting narrative that the audience grappled with as they enjoyed the beautiful performances.