Mushtari Afroz

 

‘In an age of distractions, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.’ – Pico Iyer. The idea of creating a work on the concept of silence first emerged in year 2014 when I picked up a small TED book from Indigo at Eaton Centre. The title of the book was ‘The art of stillness: Adventures of going nowhere’ and was written by the celebrated travel writer Pico Iyer.  Despite my sheer interest in creating the work around silence, I failed to do so at that time. Later I discovered why I failed. My mind was not silent. Driven by the mad rush of everyday western life, I lost touch with my inner-self. But a silent mind was necessary to create a work around this abstract concept that has been searched for, discussed and researched at length by philosophers, spiritualists, academics and many others perhaps since the beginning of human existence.

In the following years, my husband and I travelled some of the most interesting places on this planet in the spirit of adventure traveling. Amazonian rainforest in South America, Torres Del Paine in Chilean Andes, Perito Morino Glacier in Argentina, Bornean Rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia brought me closer to nature where silence is in abundance. My mind became calm, thoughts became clearer and deeper. I felt myself small and powerless amidst the vast and silently powerful nature. The rush of modern, urban life trying to satisfy our artificially created needs seemed meaningless. At that time, I knew I experienced silence first-hand in some shape or form.

Upon returning from my trip to Bornean Rainforest in 2017, I started collaborating on the project with Tanveer Shwajeeb Alam, a famous vocalist, music composer and sound engineer from Bangladesh. While Tanveer was creating the music, I was searching for other aspects of silence. In the ‘final’ 14-miute track that was created over 8 months we chose to present 5 aspects of silence. I invite the audience and my peers to go on a journey with me and discover those 5 aspects in their own way. 5 is simply a number and carries my interpretation. The observer may find more than 5 in the work. I place the word final in quotation marks simply because I do not believe I will ever be able to complete and draw a conclusion on my search for silence. Just recently, while spending time on a very isolated and remote island in Raja Ampat, Indonesia I discovered another aspect of silence. So, the search will continue and perhaps someone else will add to the work after me.

Silence Is.. is Kathak Bandi Dance Collective’s new solo work that will be premiered at ‘Rebel Yells’ series of Dance Matters-Toronto this year and will then travel to Santa Barbara, California for its second presentation in March at HH11 Dance Festival of Nebula Dance Lab curated by Devyn Duex. Kathak Bandi Dance Collective aims to create and promote original work rooted in North Indian Classical Dance form ‘Kathak’ and its innovation. Since its inception in 2016, the collective has created multiple traditional solo and duet work in collaboration with dancers, musicians from other genres as well as poets and visual artists, but Silence Is.. is its first unconventional work. I say it unconventional because of its content and its presentation. Its content is not mythological or devotional; nor does it utilizes the concept of ‘Nayak-Nayika’(primarily used in Radha-Krishna story based presentations). Its presentation style is also vastly different from a traditional Kathak repertoire. Instead of walking through the memory lane of Mughal India curved with beautiful dance compositions, thumris and taranas, the audience will walk through a contemporary lane that is trying to explore other possibilities and potentials of Kathak.

 

 

I am a Kathak practitioner and my recent interest has been in finding a South Asian body through my practice. Kathak has contributed towards the understanding of my body, but it is not complete. A Kathak body is an upright body. While it creates a deep sense of verticality of the spine and how to move it in motion during classical performances, I constantly find myself challenged by its limitations in my work where being conscious of the other aspects of the body is also necessary. I am currently investigating other movement practices from Asia primarily from South Asia and East Asia to understand how the channelization of energy happens in these bodies.

 

Photo: Mushtari Afroz by Dewan Masud Karim