Friday, November 12, 2010

Hair Raising Stories: Performance of Mithu Joardar at Sandarbh

When Mumbai based Mithu Joardar gets an invitation to participate in Sandarbh Nature Art Workshop at Luhari Village, she feels no confusion or panic. It is Mithu’s first ever participation in a site specific art camp. However, Mithu feels that she has something to say through her pet theme; the hair.

(Mithu Joardar)

What is the connection between hair and nature? Is it the perennial categorization of women as nature and men as culture? Is it that viewing woman as an entity with the wild growth of hair to be tamed and controlled? Or is it the fact the women, in the name of being an integral part of the ‘nature’ expected to be trapped in the confinement of hairs? Are her days are supposed to be spent by tying and untying her hair, in anticipation, desperation, revenge, mutilation and so on?

(The procession begins)

Mithu Joardar considers all these things as the part of the woman/gender as a cultural construct once defined through the myths of Medusa and Draupadi, as an avenging goddess and as an instigating concubine, and now defined through the color and texture of the hair. The control of women/nature is managed through the indoctrination of the religious and cosmetic myths. Hair, in this sense is a tool of traditional and contemporary mythologies.

(Priyanka Govil holding the pot of plaits)

Mithu enacts the life of a woman through her hair rituals; her birth, puberty, marriage, widowhood and death. As an artist who has been working on the politics of hair for a long time, she in Sandarbh decides to make use of the narrative of hair through the enactment of choreographed ritual. All the nine days she sits inside her room and weaves artificial hairs.

(While Nature walks Culture watches on)

On the ninth day, Mithu joardar comes out of the room with long braids of artificial hair fitted to her own hair and held by her sakhis (friends). The ritualistic procession comes out of her room. Priyanka Govil leads the procession with pot full of plaits. Dhara, Neha and Pari hold the hair; they too open their hair as if they were in a celebration or in mourning.

(The procession reaches the tree)

Mithu covers her face with her cupped palms that she holds before her as if she were looking into a mirror, hiding her face from the public, mourning or averting the glances out of shyness. The veiling of face connotes the different stages in a woman’s life. And the procession moves on.

(Pari helps Mithu to tie the hair around the tree)

Finally, it reaches to the tree under which the camp participants often sit around to chat. Mithu climbs the raised mound around the tree and starts untying the braids one by one. Her sakhis help her to do so and finally they tie these long plaits around the tree.

(Pari, Neha and Mithu at work)

A celebratory procession slowly comes to have the mood of death and desolation. In the forced severance of the plaits has a violent nature in itself. A woman is forced to lose her hair when she become socially unwanted; when she becomes a widow or when her exercise of the sexual rights outside the wedlock is detected or she chooses to live with someone of her own choice.

Nature is forced to shed its adornments as culture enters its zone. Mithu connotes this act of violnec through the act of this hair procession. Then the tree stands alone like a ghost, a tree of memories. 

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