Toronto
2 min

Queerly passionate & political

There are a lot of queer contributors an this year’s Desh Pardesh festival exploring the complexities that make our lives whole.

One of the more intriguing performers who’ll open up the mixed bag of identity is D’Lo, a gay Sri Lankan artist and activist. She finds inspiration and support in the black, Latino, Philipino, gay and straight communities and the underground hip-hop scene in Los Angeles.

In her performance work she passionately shares her realities: the genocide in Sri Lanka, loving all children as special, the limitations and restrictions of religion, the criminal injustice system, eating jellybeans, racism and interracialism, spirituality, and the passion that carries her.

D’Lo’s vibrant commitment to freedom exemplifies how art and creativity come to bear on politics and oppression. D’Lo performs at Buddies In Bad Times (12 Alexander) opening night at 7pm on Thu, Jun 10. (Most of the events take place at Buddies.)

Other queers include local teacher and student activist Sheila Batacharya, who leads a workshop and beginners yoga class “Yoga And Decolonization” (10am to noon on Sat, Jun 12 at the 519 Church Street Community Centre).

A former Torontonian now based in Vancouver, Sheila James, joins forces with the Basmati Action Group to offer an action-based workshop and panel exploring bio-piracy. James sees multi-national companies patenting life forms as the “third wave of colonization.” Find out “How America Stole Basmati Rice!” (from 1pm on Fri, Jun 11 at The 519).

Harvard film school graduate Nish Saran pushes the boundaries of autobiographical documentary filmmaking, with his hilarious and moving piece Summer In My Veins, his story of being tested for HIV and steeling himself to come out to the extraordinary women in his family over the course of a family vacation. (At 1pm on Fri, Jun 11 at the John Spotton Cinema, 150 John St.)

The day programming features a wide variety of workshops – from dramatic screenwriting with writer/director/actor Sugith Varughese (9:30am on Thu, Jun 10), to a workshop on creative writing and social justice facilitated by Canadian writers Anar Ali, Anne Castelino and Ashok Mathur (10am on Sat, Jun 12).

Some of the other highlights include internationally renowned feminist Fahmida Riaz, exiled from Pakistan for her political writing and work with the women’s magazine Awaaz (3:15pm on Fri, Jun 11).

In a first of its kind, architect and writer Pradeep Dalal opens up a fresh dialogue with his mixed media presentation about the experiences of Africans in India, in his workshop “India Through African Eyes” (3:30pm on Fri, Jun 11 at The 519).

Dancer and author Gitanjali Kolanad performs “Walking Naked,” a dance-theatre piece, including spoken word and puppets. Fleurette Fernando, of Sri Lankan parentage who grew up in the cultural mix of Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood, presents Devolution, an exploration in anthropology and urban culture, incorporating dance, music and spoken word. The young, multiracial cast mix street hip hop, house, B-boy breaking, swing, mime, and Afro-Brazilian martial arts (both, on opening night).

For the first time ever, there will be children’s programming: “Can You Tell Me How To Get To Deshi Street?” There’ll be storytelling with authors Manjusha Pawagi and Rukshana Khan, floor painting and Indian drawing styles with Pria Mazumdar, and dancer/choreographer Hari Krishnan will lead “Simon Says: ‘Do a Lotus Flower.'” These events are free and will be held at the Children’s Own Museum (90 Queen’s Park), from 12:30pm to 4:30pm on Fri, Jun 11.

For other events and participants, look for Desh Pardesh programs at community bookstores and organizations.