South Asian Womenspeak

Premiered February 2004
, University of Michigan Museum of Art

South Asian Womenspeak was a response to the United States's invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. It was choreographed to original music (composed by Madhavi) with lyrics drawn from three poems by South Asian and Middle Eastern women. These poets span an incredible expanse of time, from the second century to the present, but all of their voices resonate today.

The piece is structured in the traditional varnam format, with alternating pure dance sequences and sung poetry that is interpreted and expressed by the dancers.

  Shall I attack
These people
Shall I strike them?
I do not know
Or shall I find
Some reason
And cry out
To this city that
Sleeps not knowing
My suffering
While the moving wind
Swirls and pulls me
To and fro.

Auvaiar Karuntotai, 2nd Century
Tamil Nadu

It is not necessary
That war be waged
Only on borders.
Wherever there is war
There are borders.

Snehmayi Chandry, contemporary
New Delhi


I carry a torch
In one hand and a bucket of
Water in the other.

With these things I am
Going to set fire
To Heaven and put out the
Flames of hell.

So that voyagers to
God can rip
The veils and see
The real destination.

Rabia Basri, 8th Century
Basra (Iraq)