Rani Moorthy’s ‘Whose Sari Now?’ and Multiculturalism at King’s

In case you all at Strand haven’t noticed, even as you walk in and out of lectures or seminars, there’s an Arts & Humanities Festival that’s  taken over the campus. It’s a ‘fabricated’ space – a space that aims for you to engage with, and raise the issues of, spatial dialogues and social constructionism across barriers of all sorts – that runs events from ‘the fabrication of morality’, to ‘life drawing’, and even to ‘how to be Beyoncé’. In the words of the Director of the A & H Research Institute, Professor Max Saunders, it’s all about ‘opening the mind’ to think, collaboratively, about how texts, fabrics, and spaces, are fabricated and weaved together.

And this is particularly where ‘Whose sari now?’  – a Rasa Productions performance by Rani Moorthy, followed by a screening of the short film ‘A Sari Tale’, and a panel discussion featuring Ananya Kabir, Fareda Khan, and Rani Moorthy; which was staged this Friday evening – comes in.

A sari is an Indian traditional garment worn by women. ‘Whose sari now?’  is an excerpt from a much wider Sari Trilogy and UK tour, which portrays the journey of a woman coming of age, and her relationships to the sari. The stage becomes an arena for the negotiation, or sometimes battling, of cultural barriers and conflicting identities. The audience is invited to experience the political and personal struggles with the sari, the often conflicting dialogues between the very traditional rituality of the sari and femininity, and the way in which it’s ‘played’ with, and adapted to, the role and image of the modern woman in Britain. This idea of the ‘power sari’ – discussed by Ananya Kabir, one of the participants of the panel discussion – revolves around a ‘sari personality’, that is, finding your own personal comfort, whether it be a particular kind of cloth or textile, or a particular way of wearing your sari; with boots, for example. Through the portrayal – in the play as well as in the documentary film, ‘A Sari Tale’ – of personal experiences and histories as a connective tissue that interweaves with the sari, it becomes part of a global picture of the migrant experience. You know what they say; the personal really is the political.

There are more than eight ways to wear a sari. And there is more than one meaning in a sari – and it doesn’t always have something to do with Bollywood. The event invited us, indeed necessitated us, as an international audience at an international institution, not only to peel away these preconceived ideas and prejudices about the fabrication of South Asian, and even British Asian, identities – but also to acknowledge that we’re all migrants in some way.

Don’t forget to engage with the A & H Festival, as well as Rani’s other performances – check out the full performance of ‘Whose sari now?’ on tour starting Thursday, November 12 at Leicester and then moving to London on the 19th and 20th.

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