A space where there was none: Delhi Bahujan collective hosts art festival
The lack of visibility for Dalit artists has often been highlighted, but nothing much has been done. A group of students of Ambedkar University in Delhi recently hosted a festival to facilitate spaces for artists as well as art forms to underscore the systematic discrimination of those from the lower castes by Savarnas.
The first edition of Dalit Art Festival by Dalit Bahujan Adivasi Collective (DBAC) hosted a lineup of artists, poets, rappers, photographers, film makers, actors, dancers, musicians and writers from 7-9 March.
The Ambedkarite collective comprises Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi anti-caste activists from the university.
“We believe a community is constructed in our shared narratives and only art gives us that scope for an unparalleled political imagination that enables us to speak but is not necessarily heard,” Syam Sundar, a member and participant, told Catch. “We have resolved to keep trying like our ancestors until those changes come and will never quit,” the artist, whose sketches show atrocities on Dalits across India, added.
The festival also commemorated Savitribai Phule on the occasion of Women's Day. Anti-caste films like 'The Battle of Bhima Koregaon', 'I am not a Witch' and 'Caste of the Menu Card' were screened.
“We, as Bahujan students, felt our artists are not given enough recognition and it must be accounted for, that like all Brahminical spaces the field of art is not bereft of exclusion,” Akunth, one of the organisers, told Catch.
“The idea was to facilitate our own space where various kinds of artists can interact not only with students but also with each other,” he added.
According to him, the festival was a critique of “so-called progressive art festivals that have treated caste with tokenism, or worse, invisibilised it”.