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Kathak artist Farah Yasmeen Shaikh: Sights & Sounds

Brooke Duthie

Sights & Sounds is your weekly guide to the Bay Area arts scene. Kathak artist Farah Yasmeen Shaikh told KALW’s Jen Chien about three fantastic arts events happening around the Bay this week.

Credit Oakland Asian Cultural Center
Left to right: Deema K. Shehabi, Persis Karim, and Shadab Zeest Hashmi

The Oakland Asian Cultural Center presents Poets of Existence I in celebration of International Women’s Day. Authors, educators and poets Deema K. Shehabi, Persis Karim, and Shadab Zeest Hashmi will be reading, accompanied by music from composer and santur player Faraz Minooei and Kurdish vocalist Hossein Massoudi.

Deema K. Shehabi is the author of Thirteen Departures from the Moon and co-editor, with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, for which she won NCBR’s Book Recognition Award. She’s also co-author (with Marilyn Hacker) of the renga sequence Diaspo/Renga. Persis Karim is the Neda Nobari Chair of the newly established Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, and a professor in the Comparative and World Literature department at San Francisco State University. Shadab Zeest Hashmi is a poet and essayist; she is the winner of the San Diego Book Award and the Nazim Hikmet Prize. Her books include Ghazal Cosmopolitan, Kohl and Chalk and Baker of Tarifa.

"I am just such an advocate for seeing a really diverse group of artists coming together. I love the fact that it's poetry coupled with music, I love collaborative works and cross-medium works!"

The 47th season of ODC/Dance culminates at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with the premiere of Brenda Way’s News of the World with music by David Lang and mise-en-scène by painter Doug Argue and set designer Alexander V. Nichols. A bracing artistic response to a turbulent world, the evening will also reprise last season’s prescient work, What we carry, What we keep. The performance is the second part of the Dance Around Town series, which began in February with Path of Miracles at Grace Cathedral.

On Friday, 3/16, the show will feature a gala program curated from the choreographers’ most memorable works, followed by an opportunity to join ODC dancers, choreographers, collaborating dancers, and fellow art enthusiasts at an after-party at the St. Regis hotel.

"So much of their work is really steeped in social and political context. And they're not afraid to push the envelope on some uncomfortable topics. I think the way they train their dancers, they're extremely athletic and yet they bring so much emotion and fluidity to what they do."

Dancer Nadhi Thekkek and visual artist Rupy C. Tut teamed up for a multi-media production, Broken Seeds (Still Grow), that explore the continuing impact of the 1947 British India Partition through bharatanatyam dance, calligraphy, Indian miniature painting, and spoken word. 

The Partition was one of the most formative events in South Asia's recent history, creating over 15 million refugees and leaving over one million people dead. Nadhi and Rupy have sourced eyewitness accounts from Partition collected by collaborating organization, the 1947 Partition Archive in Berkeley. They examine the hyphenated American-immigrant experience, linking it to the displacement of their ancestors during Partition. This creative inquiry sources poetry, eyewitness accounts, and current events to understand the current political climate while reflecting on what it means to belong somewhere. 

"Nadhi Thekkek of Nava Dance Theatre, she's a friend, a colleague. We practice and perform different aspects of Indian classical dance, but nonetheless we're part of that same world. It's really a chance to see it from a different perspective ... so not just those affected by Partition in that region, but even what it means to be a migrant or an immigrant in a historical context that's not discussed as often as we'd like."

Farah's newest show, The Parting, a multi-sensory dance theater piece about the the 1947 partition of Indian and Pakistan, will be performed at the Hammer Theater in San Jose 3/23-3/24.