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Jatra Japon

The Journey of Jatra

Bengal’s favourite ‘Jatra’ has dominated the field of folk theatre since time immemorial. Jatra is jatra in its name, its structure, its history and its proximity to the people of Bengal. Though jatra is not specific to the state of Bengal, it is intricately linked to the lives of Bengalis such that many would speak of a ‘mama’, a ‘kaka’, a ‘dadu’, a ‘pishi’ or, ‘baba’ to be associated with it either as a pastime or as a profession. Bengalis are nostalgic of jatra’s erstwhile glory, but even today jatra survives despite facing stiff competition from other forms of media. Bengal has immortalised jatra in literature, music, cinema, photography and of course in popular art. In recent years, jatra has provided rich data in understanding the nationalist movement in India, issues surrounding theatrical transvestism and performance in general. It has also successfully provided a unique identity to places such as Chitpur in Kolkata and Nandakumar in Midnapore. Jatra also continues to serve as a livelihood for many, sometimes to those from outside the state of Bengal. Today, jatra may give the impression of the fading arts, but is it really so? Maybe one should look for jatra in places never sought before, hoping to locate a new diversified form of the theatre.

- Amrita Middey

Jatra Japon

Literally translating to living theatre, JatraJapon is an installation in tribute to the celebration of life that is Jatra. My first memory of Jatra is the wonder that I felt at their intriguing and amusing titles. From A. Middey’s field notes I find jatra actor Syamal Chakravarty pointing out, “it is a story in a name (যাত্রাপালার নাম গল্পের সমান ). It expresses a thought and is a rural tale but a modern story.” The names have been myriad drawing the audiences through centuries to the various themes, plots and journeys of jatra that have encapsulated the social and political mood of Bengal. Our installation attempts to create access to the complex, layered and historical world of jatra through their curious names and their multiple related connotations and commentaries. An attempt to encourage the viewer to imagine those times of glory through fragmented histories of jatra in images and objects not losing sight of the infectious humour in their nomenclature. The journey of jatra continues to document and narrate the stories of our times.

Commissioned by: Kolkata Art Festival (Chitpur Art Trail curated by Hamdasti)

Concept, Curation & Execution: Artsforward

Supported by: Diamond Library, Minerva Theatre, Gopal Patra

Research: Amrita Middey. Field Notes, ongoing research(unpublished)

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