Growing, multiplying, breathing

Body, Essays, India

On the last night of my sweetheart being here with me, we heard a fight happening on the street. We heard a woman’s voice, and both of us froze. It was right outside our building. We listened; shall we go outside? We opened the door. There was another woman who was putting her body between the man trying to grab a woman he was yelling at. My sweetheart said to me, there are seven men out there, shall we go and add two more female bodies to balance it out? I didn’t want to. I was scared. I have known violence, and in my own country I know how to combat it. I know the phone lines, the ways to donate, and the ways to knock on the door and intervene. I know that the police will probably help. But this is not my country. I don’t know the rules, and I don’t know how to help. My body does not feel strong here. I don’t know how to understand my body when it is in the closet, when it is white and means so many things to others who look at it. It doesn’t quite feel like mine. I wanted to go inside with my darling on our last night together; back into the arms which make it clear what and who my body is again.
I felt ashamed. Selfish and powerless. We went outside. There was shouting, and a crowd of people. A car had stopped. The man shouting had her by the arm, and was saying she’s my wife. The family in the car were Indian, with a man in the driver seat. As soon as he said she’s my wife, the driver said right, that’s it, let them go. The French woman who had got in between them was screaming, saying what, it’s ok, because they’re married, its ok? You just let him go? And we did. He walked down the street, dragging her by her arm.
Last night I watched a dance show by young contemporary dancers. There were parts when the women were thrown on the ground, and others where they held the men aloft and threw them down. It was complicated, powerful work about violence, the street, and complication. It was made from here. I understood some things, and not others. Sometimes it is so much easier when it is through the body.
The street I am living on has a lot of men on it. At night, it is almost a completely male space; drinking tea and eating samosas. In my proposal, I wrote that I wanted to make work on the street. But this is not my street. Where should I make it? I miss my body, and I miss womens bodies. I miss female energy. And at the same time, I hear about Shakti, the mother goddess. Suresh tells me stories and shows me the drawings on the street which symbolise the lotus, and the womb; creation, growth. He says you start with a cross, and then you join those points, and then you join and join, until you fill the room. In Bangalore there are billboards which say “When you kill a girl, you kill many others.”
Shanthi Rd is built around a Badam tree. It is huge, reaching almost the height of the house, and far onto the street. Growing, multiplying, breathing, it forms a curving roof over the courtyard; one with holes that the full moon crawls through, offering surprising patches of light to skin. It reaches over the row of black motorbikes which park on the outside of the wall.
I plan to build a scaffold on the private side of the wall. I want to make temporary sculptures which will reach over the wall. Shy, trying, dripping, getting stronger. This will be my feminine intervention into the street. This is my body. She is solid and process based and feeling. This is not my city, and not my country, but I am here. I am invited here and I have to find ways to speak. I will speak about my experience and about my body. I will offer my femme and my feminine to the street. I will make an enclave where maybe I could drink tea with other women. It will be made of bamboo and tied with coconut rope. They feed it out from their aprons and it weaves into rope as if by magic. Maybe we could share some skills. Maybe I could invite you. There is a generosity that I need to learn; to offer and to accept. I’ve been painting banana leaves purple and blue. They are the same colours as the houses down the road. I have dripped blue onto them, like the fat rain. I am making a roof. I am laying a floor.

email Painted banana leaves email Studio shot email Paint

Images by Cop Shiva http://copshiva.com/

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