Poet Sudheer Raj reveals his brand of artivism
Poetry and music go way back in the history of art. This is why each of the Mattancherry-based Backyard Civilization Gallery’s poetry reading sessions always featured a musician to supplement the act. Breaking the in-house tradition, the upcoming performance by poet and artivist Sudheer Raj will not feature an instrumentalist—because there’s no better accompaniment for his verses than the rain.“Sudheer’s rhythms are like rain pouring down in torrents and Kuttanadu’s traditions of vallappattu and vellappattu have greatly influenced his imagery. Also, our writer has brought a distinct flow to Kerala’s Dalit poetry which heretofore strictly followed form,” says Latheesh Mohan, the secretary of the Backyard Civilization. As an art community which has embraced counter-culture movements—including the causes of feminism and LGBTQ—the gallery envisages the poet to be the way forward for Dalit verse in the state.
Organised as a part of the On Language series started in 2012—which involves poetry, fiction and philosophy presentations—Perumazha will feature Sudheer’s poems like Njan Arrest Cheyyapedunna Divasam (The Day I Will Be Arrested), which gained a lot of traction through his online networking pages.“It (social media) affords me the freedom to break out of the spectrum within which traditional publications work,” says this Indian Air Force veteran. Since his job took him to several parts of the country, his words address the nuances within contemporary socio-political realities—as seen in his works like Pizza Hut, which was penned after he witnessed the Gujarat riots.
When considering anyone as an artivist, there should be a delineation between individuals pushing a political agenda and those fighting for social causes. “It would be unfair to brand me just as a Dalit poet, but a lot of my poetry does reflect on our struggles. I believe that caste issues attain authenticity when expressed by people who undergo oppression,” says the 45-year-old, who’s been involved in imparting language and political awareness among school kids. “Certain organisations that claim to work for Dalits are self-centered and politically biased and I prefer to not to identify myself with them,” Sudheer iterates on his brand of activism.
On June 20 at 5 pm.