The journey began in 2018, when we returned with documentation of the Dignity March, a two month long yatra led by survivors of sexual and caste based violence. The Yatra was a transformative experience for us- while we had created various reports/videos for the yatra, we decided to work on a theatre performance to reflect on our experience of the Yatra.
We devised a play called Chu Kar Dekho, guided by our trustee and senior theatre practitioner Anish Victor, who encouraged us to place the body at the centre of our experience. This meant telling our experiences of the yatra and what had affected us and not retelling the survivors’ experiences. The performance evolved as a relationship between our own experience and what we had heard/witnessed from the survivors. We could in this process, move away from issues and facts and opinions, with the hope that it could open a space for different kinds of listening, empathy and healing. In February 2021, we travelled with Chu Kar Dekho to Dewas, MP with support from Jan Sahas. We performed seven shows in the span of a week for the survivors and their families, community activists, lawyers and adolescents. Click here to view responses to the performance.
As one woman asked, “The performance is relatable to all women, as we have endured pain, but how do we ensure that our young girls are protected from harassment and abuse? Can this be shared with the perpetrators?” This question pushed us to think the performance can be a strong process in moving towards transformative justice.
We extended an invitation to the women we had traveled with during the yatra, to work on creating a performance that will not be limited to the act of violence alone. The process creates a space where she is free to explore multiple aspects of her identity, dreams, aspirations, pain and her own notions of justice. FREEDA was born in November 2021, as a theatre group of nine women from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Keeping the body at the center of the conversation, we are in the process of creating a performance that captures the complexity of the aftermath of violence- while also traveling back and forward to bring out stories of childhood, love, desire, aspirations and dreams. This process would not be possible without the support of Jan Sahas.