CHENNAI: Stand-up comedy Umrao John (that’s not a typo), male belly dancing, emcee in a drag outfit — these are just some of the events lined up for the Queer and Ally Art Festival (QAAF) on May 8. “We will have six artists from across the country and about 15 from Chennai,” informs Shyam Konnur, one of the organisers and the founder of MIST, a Bengaluru-based LGBT collective. The fest is open to all and aims to unite LGBTQ and other artists. It will be held at Spaces, Besant Nagar and entry is free.
“As on Tuesday morning, over 100 people have registered as audience through the website. And this is not even considering the Facebook page,” says Shyam. Isn’t the number of registrations a tad on the higher side for a city that is thought to be conservative? No, asserts Shyam. “Chennai is not so conservative anymore. In fact, it’s very progressive. For instance, an all-women’s dance group, High Kicks, is performing at the festival. They’re a big group and I think these are all positive signs.”
Aparna Nagesh of Chennai-based High Kicks tells CE, “The 8-minute performance will be from the perspective of an artist who is curious about life and its various paths. But society boxes him into roles. It’s about how the artist fights back and moves forward without fear.” Drawing from Rabindranath Tagore’s Where the Mind is Without Fear, the performance will include dialogue and other media elements as well. “It’s done from the perspective of identity and being fearless to be who you really are and not letting society box you into specific roles and ideas,” adds Aparna.
QAAF was first held in Bengaluru in October 2015 and had over 150 participants, including 30 artists, performers, and craftspeople. The event offered a rare opportunity for queer and straight-allied artists to come together under one roof to engage in intersectional queer issues, according to an email statement.
“The festival also made it evident that there was a real thirst for this sort of artistic space in cities all over India,” read the statement. Following the success of the Bengaluru event, in November 2015, QAAF took the show to Pune, where over 200 people attended. Following this, the festival now comes to Chennai for the first time.
What’s Lined up
- Zameer Kamble & Manoj (Umrao John, stand-up comedy), Pune
- Jacob Hustedt (Emcee in Drag and Singer) Austin, Texas
- Kabir Khan (Musician,ally), Delhi
- Alex (Belly Dance), Bengaluru
- High Kicks (Dance ensemble), Chennai
- Movies like Walking the Walk by Moses Tulasi
- Bhram by Manoj Thorat
- Art exhibition — Everyone Dies Gray by Aritra Sarkar (Student, FTII)