BENGALURU : A high-energy performance, viewer enthusiasm, and satisfaction. These are common occurrences for artistes like Manjamma Jogathi, who is a transgender folk performer. But while the fruit of their labour is sweet, the worry of not having a space called ‘home’ overshadows all of it. Which is why Manjamma, the president of the Karnataka Janapada (Folk) Academy and the first transgender woman to hold this position, is crowdfunding on ketto.org to build a liveable space in Bellary.
“As transgender folk artistes, the only space we had as our ‘home’ after our performances was a small hut that belonged to my guru. The hut was hardly big enough to accommodate me and as a result, the students would sleep in a nearby temple. When people protested, they would move to sleep on train platforms. We built a two-room house in 2005, which started to fall apart last year.
So we began to rebuild our home to accommodate our livelihood and extended family,” says Manjamma. After already spending `4 lakh, due to lack of funds and the pandemic, the process has been halted. “We need another `5 lakh to complete building our home. It will accommodate at least five of us and have basic amenities such as a bedroom, kitchen, and an indoor toilet,” she adds.
Manjamma knew her orientation of being a transgender girl since a young age. Her family refused to support her and asked her to leave the house. After leaving home, she met her guru, Kaalavva Jogathi – a recipient of the Rajyotsava award – from whom she learned the Jogathi art form. The dance is performed by the Jogappas, a community of transgender people in north Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, to appease goddess Yellamma.
“My parents thought that if I was a man, they could help me get married and build a family. If I was a woman, I could marry and start my own family. Since I am a transgender person, my family refused to do anything for me and told me to leave home and live with people such as myself. After I left, I met my guru from whom I learnt the Jogathi art form and started performing along with her,” she says.
Her hope is to build this home for the Jogathis of today and tomorrow, who can then call it a space their own. “This home will be a testament to the Jogathi culture and it will help preserve our folk art. If I finish this one last job of building this home, I would have completed all my responsibilities,” she says.