Monday, October 17, 2016

'The Second Sunrise' by Raka Maitra

Dancers in 'The Second Sunrise'. Photo credit: Websites of Esplanade and CHOWK.

I'm completely unfamiliar with the dance form of odissi or orissi. But I like the idea of a performance combining dance and poetry, with classical musicians playing live, and also to music provided by Bani Haykal and Zai Kuning. Thanks to diva Morrissey swopping his Singapore date, I managed to catch 'The Second Sunrise' by Raka Maitra and CHOWK Productions at Esplanade's da:ns festival 2016.

The dance takes its name from the 1983 war anthology 'A Second Sunrise' written by renowned Tamil poet Rudhramoorthy Cheran. Yeah, I managed to get a translated copy of it to flip through before watching the performance. ✌🏻This copy is translated by Lakshmi Holmström with a foreword by Sascha Ebeling. The 36 poems bear witness to the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict and subsequent civil war, full of pain, confusion, angst and hope. Cheran's war anthology began with 'A Rainy Day' written in 1976 and 'The Sea' in 1977, both of which seem to foreshadow the coming storm.

Through odissi, the dancers' gaze reached far and wide, their movements telling of the despair and destruction of war, and the second half, focusing on the specific poem and the burning of Jaffna Library symbolic through the collapse of a bookshelf, the visual and sound shattering the peace that many tried so hard to keep, even as the other half of the country erupt in violence and madness. I really enjoyed the performance and how it portrayed the poems.

The poem 'A Second Sunrise' was written on the occasion of the burning of the Jaffna Public Library in 1981, destroying thousands of rare manuscripts and books, eventually sparking off a full scale civil war that raged for more than two decades and officially ended only in 2009.

A Second Sunrise (1981) 

No wind that day;
even the sea was dead,
no waves rising.

As I walked along,
feet burrowing deep in the sand, 
I saw another sunrise.
In the south, this time.

What happened?
My town was set on fire,
my people lost their faces;
upon our land,
upon the wind that blows upon it,
an alien stamp.

Who were you waiting for,
your hands tied behind your backs?
The fire has written its message
upon the clouds.
Who waits, even now?
From the streets upon which 
the embers still bloom,
rise, march forward.

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