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Blurring boundaries 

Gender Bender, which goes online this year, is back with new works that explore the ever-expanding spectrum of gender through art, dance, films and more  

Published: 06th December 2020 11:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2020 05:57 AM   |  A+A-

Manoj Paswan, an artist, in grantee Aamir Rabbani’s project on Launda Nach

Express News Service

BENGALURU : A film on the launda naach of Bihar, a dance performance that explores the pain felt by the hijra community, an anthology of Kannada stories about womxn’s sex, sexuality and desire. Gender Bender may have taken the online route this year, but the festival retains its promise to showcase new works of art around gender, as a concept, discourse, construct, and as art itself.

The sixth edition, which is a project of Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore and Sandbox Collective, became available for viewing on Friday. This year, the jury decided to award 15 grantees, instead of their usual 10. “We realised the need to support the creation of work in this rather difficult time,” says Nimi Ravindran, the co-founder and artistic director of Sandbox Collective.

She adds, “We have not made it mandatory to create any work for online showcasing, however it is in the nature of some works to be shown online, so we will ensure that the grantees and their work are shown in whatever form is possible.” The team received over 170 applications from artists from across the country, as well as Mexico, Germany, Finland and Australia.

Of the 15 selected, most are Indian, except one each from Bangladesh and Germany. All the proposals selected take the conversation on gender forward, through dance, poetry, music, films, theatre, photography and visual arts. Take, for instance, Satchit Puranik and Pranav Patadiya. They started an art and activism lab called Chikka Dodda Art Lab.

Their project, called Mard Hamdard is a collage film that builds onto the footage of other Indian films (mainstream Mumbai cinema and beyond) to demystify and deconstruct the portrayals of non-toxic masculinity in 107 years of Indian cinema. Puranik hopes the viewer’s takeaway from this is two-fold.

“One is rediscovering Indian cinema through the prism of Judith Butler’s gender performativity theory. The other is to inspire others to look at the collage form as a new medium to make an essay documentary,” he says.  Rashmi Ravikumar  has directed a set of six performative stories in Kannada on sex, sexuality and desire, from the experiences of women, women identifying or non-binary people.

The theatreperson, who performs in both Kannada and English, says such topics are difficult to explore in the former language due to lack of words. “For example, we had to search online for the Kannada translations of ‘clitoris’ and ‘orgasm’. Since the audience, like us, might not know these words too, we had to figure out a narrative that explains them easily. For other words, like tampon or vibrator, we had to coin our own translations,” explains Ravikumar.

The project, called Amma Makkalu Ellinda Bartaave? (Mommy where do babies come from?), also involves one playwright, two musicians and 11 performers, who have also devised and written the stories. Each episode explores a different theme, like pro-choice vs pro-life, casual sex, body shaming, self-pleasure, etc, through the lens of the ego states.

“Sometimes I find that there is more judgment exploring such topics in a language that’s not English. But I feel at home in Kannada so I wanted to find a way to talk about sex and sexuality in this language,” says Ravikumar. 

The festival can be viewed on sandboxcollective.org 

What to expect 

Scavenging by C G Salamander and Samidha Gunjal:
A non-fiction comic that aims to educate people about the practice of manual scavenging

The Queer Muslim Monthly by Reya Ahmed: 
It will collate video installations, comics, illustrations and interviews of and by queer Muslim artists in the form of an online graphic newspaper

Resonxnce - Dissonxnce by Shruthi Veena 
Vishwanath and Sylvla Hinz: A musical diary by two female musicians, made as a response to the pandemic 



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