It is all about making voices heard at the Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha which was rechristened Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha in 2018. The Vizha hosted its first Thirunar Vizha or Rainbow Festival at the Raga Sudha Hall, Mylapore over the weekend.
“One of the most important things about the Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha is to explore spaces that are associated with certain kinds of art forms; to be open to various other kinds of art forms. In that way we create an interaction across society,” says vocalist TM Krishna, a volunteer at the festival.
The event showcased performances by eminent artistes from the transgender community including A Revathi and the Tara Thirunangai Nadana Kuzhu.
Exhibited at the venue was The Red Wall Project spearheaded by activist Kalki Subramaniam’s Sahodari Foundation. The Red Wall Project features an acrylic portrait of an angry young transgender woman, painted by Kalki, surrounded by hand-written testimonials of transgender victims of sexual, physical, social and economic abuse.
It was started to help the transgender community voice out the abuse faced by its members across the country. The project encourages them to name the perpetrators. Kalki says, “We put the testimonials on walls whenever we get the opportunity. We cannot go to court to punish these culprits. But what happens to them?”
“We wanted to protest and protect our community in the future. We are doing it in an aesthetic yet powerful way,” says Kalki.
Kalki herself is a survivor of sexual violence, “When I was studying in the first year of college, a senior sexually assaulted me. They take advantage of you. You feel subhuman through their actions.”
While some of the stories were read out at the event, many were displayed on the walls of the venue for visitors to read. Kalki says, “Despite not being able to get justice, we have a voice through this project. It is the epitome of protest art.”
Apart from being an activist, Kalki herself dons several hats including those of artist, poet, actor and inspirational speaker. “Art is a very powerful medium. It is my livelihood. I make pop art and sell them to help my financial needs. Some of my poetry has been in the educational curriculum of college students and it is making a change there,” says Kalki.
“Through The Red Wall Project people get paid for interviewing. We create relationships and support the people we meet in all ways possible. We are also invited to different places to perform through which we can sensitise the audience through our art,” she says.
Kalki says, “The violence against transgender and gender non-confirming people is never discussed in our society or in our media because there is no opportunity for us to talk about it. We have been constantly fighting. The space to talk about it, like this one, has been extremely minimal.”
“The focus of the Vizha is to celebrate diversity, different expressions, different sexualities, genders, different kinds of expression of art forms by different people,” says TM Krishna.