The Durga Chronicles
Priya Srinivasan, Philipa Rothfield and Uthra Vijay
Presented by Arts House
Saturday 3 – Sunday 4 September, 2022
Sat, 1pm & 7pm
Sun, 1pm & 5pm
Auslan Interpreted performance
Sunday 4 Sep 2022, 1pm
Pay if you can $35
A small transaction fee will be charged per order.
Mentions and imagery of gendered violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence and adult themes. Abrupt lighting changes and possible smoke effects, haze, strobe lighting and flashing lights.
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
Two worlds simultaneously bleed: one where gendered violence is endemic and another where Goddesses destroy demons.
Durga is the Goddess of protection, motherhood, and war. Also known as Mariamman and Korravai, Durga is a primordial being of complex multiplicities, recognised as the carrier of feminine strength.
The Durga Chronicles evokes a metaverse in which the Goddess is ruler and destroyer of demons in one world, whilst in another, her kin are assaulted and murdered.
At once a rite of collective mourning and a call to action, The Durga Chronicles remembers the stories of women who have been harmed and harnesses the force of Durga to provoke empowered resistance against gendered violence.
Drawing on contemporary, classical Indian postmodern aesthetics, this rich work uses music, dance and stunning visuals – along with a world first; an exquisite, moving Carnatic choir of 12 women – to create a storytelling experience that operates on a visceral level.
Internationally renowned dancer/choreographer/writer Priya Srinivasan’s works explore issues of social justice. Rooted in South Asian dance practice, her performances make women’s histories visible and have been presented in major festivals across the globe.
Here she is joined by long-time collaborator Philipa Rothfield along with Uthra Vijay, an intergenerational Keerthana Women’s Choir, Hari Sivanesan, Govin Ruben and Marcus Salvagno to explore the ritual power of movement, song and storytelling as a means to incite change.
“An explosion of colour and movement, Sangam pushes in new directions.” Cameron Woodhead, The Age, on Sangam Festival
“Priya Srinivasan brought a unique inter-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration with an ensemble of respected cultural leaders and world-renowned artistes/performers from rural and urban backgrounds, from two of the most ancient civilisations in the world.” Kumuda Chandrasekharan, The Hindu, on Churning Waters
About the Artists
Philipa Rothfield is a philosopher working in relation to and through dance on Wurundjeri land. She is a feminist academic, reviews dance, and practises a number of movement modalities, including improvisation, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Yoga. She was a member of Margaret Lasica’s Modern Dance Ensemble. She is the author of Dance and the Corporeal Uncanny (Routledge, 2021), Co-Editor of the Dancehouse Diary, and Creative Advisor at Dancehouse. She is the Chair of the Green Room Awards Dance Panel, and has served as Judge of Dance and Physical Theatre for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. She holds a number of academic positions at Melbourne and La Trobe Universities, currently teaches in Dance, at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University and is an honorary professor at the University of Southern Denmark.
Uthra Vijay is a classical singer and composer based in Melbourne and director of the Keerthana Music School and Keerthana Women’s Choir. She is a co-curator of Sangam: Performing Arts Festival of South Asia and Disapora. She has participated in several festivals such as Mapping Melbourne, Jaipur Literary Festival and AsiaTOPA and worked nationally and internationally establishing herself as a much sought out artist in the South Asian arts scene. She has worked extensively on site specific intra and intercultural performances with Iranian, Yiddish, Surinamese, Flamenco and Indigenous singers in Melbourne, London, Hamburg, Berlin, Amsterdam, Chennai, Bangalore and Barcelona.
Govin Ruben is a Malaysian/Australian performance maker, designer and director based between Kuala Lumpur, New York and Melbourne. Since graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA); He has collaborated and created highly successful artworks in dance, theatre, puppetry and installation art in; and with, leading artists from Asia, America, Europe and Australia.
Composer and multi-instrumentalist, Hari Sivanesan of Sri Lankan origin trained in the UK and is a unique representation of Indian classical-contemporary artists of international acclaim. He has pioneered projects in partnership with BBC Radio & TV, BBC Proms, WOMAD, Royal Opera House and Multicultural Arts Victoria and is co-Artistic Director of Sangam, Performing Arts Festival of South Asia.
Marcus Salvagno is a Naarm/Melbourne based filmmaker, video artist and media producer. His work largely draws on collaboration-led documentary methodology to produce commercial and artistic work. He has exhibited films and screen-based artworks at the National Gallery of Victoria, ASIATopa's HuRU hRAa Festival, Mapping Melbourne, the Jogja Biennale, the International Criminal Court at the Hague and SBS (Australia) amongst many others. He is part of the Australian/Indonesian art troupe "Gundul Peyang" which focuses on collaboration between the two countries and in his current role as producer and cinematographer at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), he is responsible for some of their in-house video productions. Marcus is also a hobbyist farmer and produces techno.
Priyadarsini Govind, based in Chennai, India is one of the foremost national and international award winning Bharatanatyam dancers and choreographers in the world today. Priyadarsini is a dancer known for her adherence to tradition, while managing to seamlessly blend new choreography with her work thereby gently redefining the boundaries of Bharatanatyam repertoire. Priyadarsini has been performing in prestigious venues all over India and the globe, taking Bharatanatyam to many major International and National Festivals as a soloist. She has been a key part of the intercultural collaborations with Priya Srinivasan between Indian and Indigenous Australian artists since 2017 for Serpent Dreaming Women and Churning Waters as well as The Chronicles of Durga in India and Melbourne from 2019.
Keerthana Women's Choir was established in 2004 by Uthra Vijay, singer, teacher, composer. From a small group of five, it has grown to over 30 women from various musical backgrounds who range in age from 25 to 71. The Choir practices formally once a week and has performed across various venues and events in Melbourne and is a staple of the Melbourne South Asian arts scene. They share a passion for music and have created a loving, nurturing sisterhood for women of all ages. They joined the Chronicles of Durga project in 2018 and have grown from strength to strength in each development and private sharing of the work.
Gendered violence is endemic and remains under-addressed in the artistic landscape. On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. 1 in 3 Australian women (30.5%) has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. 10,350 cases of rape and assault were reported in Victoria in 2021 out of an additional 30,000 believed to be unreported. Bringing South Asian forms in experimental ways of knowing, The Durga Chronicles allows us to engage with this issue through referencing the feminine power that emerges from ancient stories and mythology. The goddess (Durga/Mariamman/Korravai) is a living entity deeply connected to community, land, and nature, manifested and celebrated today through song and movement by Hindu and Tamil people wherever they go. This work brings these understandings of multiplicity into a contemporary and experimental experience to see how knowledges that are oral, textual, ritual, and embodied can provoke action.
The Durga Chronicles attends to the demons who destroy “everyday” women today through rape and/or murder told through a collaborative feminist lens enabling us to see two worlds simultaneously. In one, women are raped, choked, strangled, smothered, silenced, beheaded, dismembered, brutalised, and violated in dehumanising ways, and in another The Primordial Female Principle - who is both human and non-human, multi-armed and weaponised, benign and rageful when required - will annihilate demonic action in all its form of greed, lust, desire, rapaciousness, and violence when summoned. It asks the question: do these worlds bleed and blur and if so, how can the potential power of the Female Principle through collective action enable change?
- Priya Srinivasan and Philipa Rothfield
Co-Performance Director and Co-Choreographer: Priya Srinivasan
Co-Performance Director and Co-Choreographer: Philipa Rothfield
Composer, Arrangement and Choir Musical Director: Uthra Vijay
Composer, Arrangement and Musician: Hari Sivanesan
Production Design: Govin Ruben
Filmmaker: Marcus Salvago
Dancer and Collaborator (on film): Priyadarsini Govind
Dancer: Priya Srinivasan
Choir: Keerthana Music School
Lead Choir Performer: Uthra Vijay
Choir Performers: Janani Ganeshan, Jayashree Shenvi, Lakshmi Suthakar, Latha Ravi, Mythili Srinivasan, Nandini Venkat Subramoney, Rama Subramanian, Savitha Bingekar, Sharda Symons, Sumathy Raja, Vijayanthi Ravi
Producers: Insite Arts (Jason Cross and Beth Raywood Cross)
The Durga Chronicles has been co-commissioned by Arts House and MAV through Diasporas; and has also received generous support from Abbotsford Convent through their Pivot residency program. The Durga Chronicles has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body and the City of Melbourne through Arts House.
Photo by Devika Bilimoria
A woman’s eyes stare directly ahead. They are a piercing grey/brown with yellow and red eyeshadow. The image is a close-up on her eyes, with hair framing her face and you can only see blackness around her. Her eyes look angry. On her forehead, there is a painted white patterning around a third eye – this eye is flipped vertically, also painted white. In the centre of the eye, placed between her eyebrows, there is a fiery red gem in the middle of her forehead.