VISUALIZING THEATRE AND THE WORK OF MEMORY: PERFORMING THE KOMAGATA MARU
During an extended stay in Bangalore (July 2013 to March 2014), I worked with students at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore to design and produce multi-media sets/scenography for a theatrical event that took place in May 2014 at the University of British Columbia’s Frederic Wood Theatre and the Main Stage at Surrey Arts Centre. The production presented selections of three theatrical representations in Punjabi and English related to the Komagata Maru Incident, when a ship bearing more than 350 British Indian subjects were refused admission into Canada at Vancouver. The event was as a part of the centenary commemoration of the event in British Columbia, Canada in 2014.
Our task, as artists and designers, was to visualize the complex environment for the plays and the troubling history that they express. The performance these sets animated explored three plays written about the Komagata Maru incident by Canadian authors: Sadhu Binning and Sukhwant Hundal’s “Sumundari Sher nal Takar” (in Punjabi), Sharon Pollock’s “The Komagata Maru” (in English), and Ajmer Rode’s “Kamagata Maru” (in Punjabi). Selections of these plays were combined into a single program to explore how and why we remember the Komagata Maru, and how the creative arts augment and enhance the traditional historical archive. Students in the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC performed short selections from Pollock’s play; members of the theatre group “Rangmanch Punjabi Theatre” performed selections from the two Punjabi plays. The event was entirely bilingual, in Punjabi and English, through the use of Surtitling. The project emerged out of a partnership among the Departments of Asian Studies and Theatre and Film at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC, Canada), Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology (Bangalore), and the community theatre group, Rangmanch Punjabi Theatre (Surrey, BC, Canada). It was funded by a UBC Hampton Grant and, for the performance in Surrey, a Surrey Arts Grant.