Karthika Naïr and Polarbear – The Many Languages of Desh

Event Date: 25 May 2012
MY120 Avenue Campus
University of Northampton
NN2 6JD

Seeing and Being Seen: Postcolonial Visual Culture and Performance

The University of Northampton is proud to present an exciting day of postcolonial performance, poetry and visual culture at Avenue Campus, School of the Arts.

The Seeing and Being Seen: Postcolonial Visual Culture and Performance Symposium will be convening at 10:30 am and starting at 11:00am, the day will begin with the unique opportunity of hearing Karthika Naїr and Slam poet Polarbear discussing their innovative and prestigious 2012 Laurence Olivier award winning dance production, ‘Desh’ before moving on to a presentation by performance artists, Dr Mark James Hamilton and Rosanna Raymond.

Themes relating to postcolonial cinema, theatre and visual culture will also be addressed by among others, Professors Dominic Alessio and Patrick Williams as well as by exciting upcoming scholars, Arifani Moyo (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Anna Maria Everding (University of Northampton).

Karthika Naïr and Polarbear – The Many Languages of Desh

Slam poet Polarbear and I would like to dwell on some of our discoveries as well as our approach while scripting Desh. We plan to delineate our early realisation that we were writing to create raw material for a third person’s performance, that these stories were clay destined to be shaped into other forms, media – whether dance or lights or animation – informed the creative process and helped us position ourselves as creative collaborators. From there we will move to the multiple languages used in this one piece, where the words in English were transported into Bangla but also absorbed and transmuted into movement and music and staging devices.
Another interesting aspect– but in the off-stage plane of our own creative arcs – is how this piece brought us to meet halfway through: Polarbear’s poetry is performative, the stage is his paper and book; a lot of my poetry is informed or inspired by or written in response to performance, notably dance, whether thematically or structurally. This specificity in our profiles was also what prompted choreographer Akram Khan and his producer Farooq Chaudhary to commission us as writers of Desh.

Karthika Naïr is the author of a poetry collection, Bearings (HarperCollins India, 2009). She was born in India, lives in Paris, and works as a producer in performing arts. This proximity to performing arts, and to dance, in particular, is refracted in much of her poetry, which has been published in several anthologies and journals including Indian Literature, Caravan India, The Asia Mag, Live Mint, Terre à Ciel, Penguin’s 60 Indian Poets and Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, The Literary Review and The Poetry Review. Her poems have been translated into French and Italian.
Naïr scripted British-Bangladeshi choreographer Akram Khan’s piece, Desh – which won the 2012 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production – along with slam poet Polarbear and Khan himself. Young Zubaan will soon be bringing out The Boy, the Bees and Bonbibi, one of the stories she wrote for Desh, as an illustrated children’s book. She is currently working on her next collection for HarperCollins, a reworking in verse of the Mahabharata from the perspective of 18 female protagonists

Polarbear is not a bear at all, but a Brummie, raised on hip-hop and Arthur Scargill, who writes stories and sometimes talks them on stage. He came to national prominence as part of Apples & Snakes’ Exposed tour and through touring the summer festivals. His work has featured on BBC Radio 1, 3, 4 and 6 and he has performed around the world from Kuala Lumpur to California. He leads writing and performance projects nationally and internationally and directed Sound & Fury for the RSC.
He also scripted the first ever piece of ‘grime theatre’ with Birmingham REP’s 8Sixteen32.
His first feature length performance story, If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me toured nationally in 2008/09 and closed the London Literature Festival. Throughout 2010/11 he toured forward thinking literature piece ‘RETURN’ – A Spoken Screenplay both nationally and overseas. His latest piece ‘OLD ME’ ran for two weeks at Roundhouse in November 2011 to rave reviews and is due to tour autumn 2012.
‘The yarn-spinning Brummie’ – The Times
‘You must go and listen to this man’s work’ – John Hillcock XFM
‘His minimal style and unsettlingly straightforward and blunt lyricism make him shine out of the dross of a lot of spoken word’
– Dazed & Confused

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