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The DAM(N) Project

Australian Premiere Performance at Encounters Festival

ENCOUNTER (noun), a meeting, exchange, a brush or rendezvous, confrontation

For seven days in May 2013, from early morning until midnight, the South Bank precinct in Brisbane, Australia will be transformed into a bustling parade of contemporary India. At the Nepalese Pavilion, a lone sitar player greets the dawn; an Indian Bazaar evokes the colours and fragrances of a Delhi market on the Forecourt; throughout the parklands and streets, bursts of Bollywood recharge the mind’s battery; the Queensland Conservatorium’s many spaces echo to myriad musical styles from more than 50 concerts and masterclasses.

The DAM(N) Project, with the support of Arts Queensland, is thrilled to be premiering our new audio-visual installation at the Encounters Festival. The hour-long experience will take place at 6pm on Wednesday the 15th of May at the Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium of Music.

The DAM(N) Project is a large-scale interdisciplinary arts project that connects Australian and Indian communities around the common concern of global water security. The project presents the lives of remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India, displaced by large-scale dam development securing hydropower for Indian cities.

This holistic project integrates innovative technology, diverse community perspectives and true stories of resilience to create an immersive performance combining projections, choreography and sound. The projections feature dancers Meghna Nambiar, Ronita Mookerji and Sylvester Mardi from Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, India’s leading contemporary dance company.

The first stage of this intercultural project was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts and involved working directly with remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India.

This performance draws on material from our first creative development journey into the heart of India capturing visual footage and field recordings in the affected landscapes. The source material is predominately from the regional area of Jobat, where we collected stories and solidarity songs from over 20 displaced groups who had gathered at a satyagraha (non-violent protest). Embedding ourselves within both the satyagraha and remote affected communities was a vital part of capturing a complete story across the widely varied landscape.

In Badwani we interviewed Dayal Solanki, a young adivasi (Indigenous of Badwani) whose story became the common thread for our journey. He became our guide, leading us to the extremely remote village of Badal, accessible only by fishing boat from a makeshift wharf one hour from the nearest town. The region, which is now almost completely submerged under a reservoir, was formerly one of the most agriculturally productive regions in India.

We stayed in Dayal’s home, a wooden shelter perched on the arid crest of a mountain, and were welcomed by his family who told their stories of displacement and the hope they placed in their children. In addition to the satyagraha recordings, the source material in this performance is drawn from Dayal’s father playing traditional bansuri flute, his sisters singing and playing on the cliffs and the sparse and unsettling soundscapes of the submerged Badal village. The visual projections draw on a series of site-specific dances at various locations during our trip, including the Jobat Dam and submerged sites. Each movement of the work draws from our experiences onsite, ranging from abstract explorations of the powerful Narmada River to the songs of hope from the children.

During our trip we facilitated workshops and enabled the children to collect images, video and sound to tell stories from their perspectives. The incorporation of these capacity-building workshops within the broader project will showcase the long-term contribution that creative empowerment can make to communities in struggle.

Ultimately, the DAM(N) project is designed to connect global communities around the common concern of global water security and reveal the ramifications of damming rivers that hold cultural and spiritual significance for indigenous communities world-wide.

This first stage of The DAM(N) Project highlights the validity of community engagement, social activism and digital technology in environmentally engaged interdisciplinary art practice. While the initial stage is focused on the relationship between Australian and India, the long-term vision for The DAM(N) Project expands into other communities and cultures worldwide.

This performance has been conceived and developed by Sydney-based producer Jehan Kanga, Queensland based composer Leah Barclay, and Shakthi Sivanathan, the director of CuriousWorks.

For further information and tickets please visit the Encounters website






This project has received financial assistance from the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.