Ajithlal Sivalal’s Jasmine Walk was presented as a short performance piece with a small gathering of registered visitors watching. The presentation is a mix of mime and monologue theatricality. Using the mundane imagery of jasmine gajras, the actors highlighted the confusion that set gender performances bring on – depending on whether you were assigned male or female.
If latter, you would have been reminded at many points in your life of the symbolism of the jasmine flowers, especially when strung across a thread and worn in the hair as decoration – it means purity, marriage, marriage-ability, coyness, femininity. If and when marriage ends, it is snatched away, blocking your freedom to wear them anymore. It is a simple, fragrant, inexpensive prop that, in fact, communicates a lot.
But flip that. What happens when a man chooses to wear it? Chooses, out of free will. Is he ‘allowed’ to view it as decoration? Is he free to roam about the streets, with the flowers wrapped around his head like a crown? Is his ‘masculinity’ still intact if he decides to grow his hair and have a gajra embrace his bun?
Artist Ajithlal and his friends set out to assess these questions on the streets of Thrissur, Kollam and Bengaluru, and came back with some interesting observations at the Gender Bender festival held at the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, Bengaluru.
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Written by Shruti Sharada.