Friday, May 22, 2009

Many, many years ago, I was part of a vibrant community of South Asian artists -- all working toward the common goal of writing ourselves into existence, and creating opportunities that were less than forthcoming from mainstream institutions.

It was called Desh Pardesh and we held a yearly festival of South Asian arts, culture and politics. There were visual artists, novelists, journalists, dancers, filmmakers, sculptors, activists and community organizers from all over the globe who attended and came to lend their creative energy to the work we were doing.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from one of the founding members of that organization, Punam Khosla, in an opening address:

This is not a traditional arts festival, so to speak. Political and social themes are integral to the various workshops and discussions and to the artistic programs that are in the Desh Pradesh calendar. We don't think that art can be without content. No matter what you do, say or create, you are always taking a position, making some kind of statement. The decision is whether to fall into the status quo or rise up against it. We hope that this Desh takes us one step further towards a movement of South Asians in the West working against the status quo for a more just and humane life for all of us.

In these times of economic fail, working against the status quo is particularly hard (not that it was ever easy). Everyone is looking for what will make money and veering toward what is known to sell big, and sell fast. This does not bode well for diverse voices and taking risks. But doing just that: nurturing diverse voices and taking risks, is the only way to create any kind of lasting and real change for equality.

And I applaud all those who are doing that in their daily work and lives. Brava, and press on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny. I've actually been feeling even less incline to follow a status quo. If this past year has taught us nothing else, I think it's become obvious that status quo was not working.

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