A communal space to discuss caste and queerness
Delhi-based Malayali Aryakrishnan’s Biennale work, ‘Sweet Maria Monument’, addresses queer and gender issues through creating a communal space for reflection.
KOCHI: A discussion titled ‘Disidentifications: Conversations on Everyday Caste and Queerness’ was held the other day at Kochi-Muziriz Biennale, becomes a platform for public discourse on gender fluidity and caste.
Queer Dalit activist Aleena Akashamittayi, addressing the gathering at Aryakrishnan’s exhibition space that is a tribute to queer rights activist Sweet Maria who was murdered in Kerala seven years ago, noted Dalits have always been kept away from the mainstream in multiple ways. “When people get to know you are queer as well, the troubles get worse,” she said.
Kerala, like the rest of India, has historically suppressed Dalits. “Untouchability continues to be practised today, even in urban areas, though in forms less direct. It is only that now they just have found new ways,” said Aleena.
The speaker noted society forces one to use the caste tag. She spoke of a general trend in the fields of education and employment, where “even though you will qualify in the ‘merit’ quota, we are forced to get a seat under SC/ST category”.
Panellist and independent researcher Koonal Duggal described his experience of stumbling upon a profile that had the man looking for someone from the Scheduled Chamar Caste.
Koonal contacted the man online, only to learn something that further anguished him. “On questioning, he said he was looking specifically for someone who could do dirty sex,” the speaker recalled at a discussion organised as part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. “Such a search is de-humanising.” The story didn’t end there. For the man on the portal countered Koonal by saying that he only associated with people from an oppressed caste. Koonal summarised the damage of the pervasive “idea that a Dalit can do all dirty things.”
Koonal, who is working on a project awarded by Sher-Gil Sundaram Art Foundation and AsiaArt Archive Grant for histories of ideas, art writing and visual culture, said certain myths associated with caste continue to plague society. “Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, it did take a while for us to understand (the dynamics of caste and gender),” he said.
Delhi-based Malayali Aryakrishnan’s Biennale work, ‘Sweet Maria Monument’, addresses queer and gender issues through creating a communal space for reflection. The space houses a growing and ephemeral archive that recounts the experiences and life of his friend Maria, who was an outspoken transgender activist.
Courtesy: The New Indian Express