Opening up: The final staging of Yoni Ka Kathaharu to commemorate Int'l Women’s Day

- Post Report, Kathmandu
‘Knowing that there are others who share your desires and fear, it opens up a space to debunk myths and rethink our identities as women,’ say the organisers

Mar 8, 2018-On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Nepali edition of Vagina Monologues, Yoni Ka Kathaharu, is set to take place at the premises of Evoke Café in Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur. The play, which has been staged annually in Nepal for the last couple of years, and in some parts of the globe for the last 20 years, is a prime contemporary example of the role art plays in ushering the forces of positive change in society.  

“The play will continue on stage until there is no violence on women,” Gunjan Dixit, the co-director of the play, said in a conversation with the Post, and as the play shows through 15 different stories, violence on women takes several forms. The physical abuses inflicted upon women have started to be denounced at a legal as well as societal level. Sexual harassment, and the use of force to control a woman as if she were an object that can be controlled by the sheer will of the male ego, has become the burning issue of our time. And the play brings this issue on to stage with an urgency that serves as a reminder of how the indifference of male figures perpetuates the cruelty on women.  

The play takes a firm stance against the literal use of force that denies the humanity of women, but goes beyond the obvious to reveal forms of violence that are imperceptible to a male-centric world view. In one of the episodes, a woman comically informs the audience how the use of tampons and lingerie limits her from becoming whole. In another more somber act, a woman relates how a ‘shameful incident’ prevented her from developing a romantic relationship. These acts showed how expectation set on women limits them in discovering their sexual identity. The expectation thus placed bars women from finding who they truly are. A woman from her early childhood is taught to continuously survey herself, because of which a contradiction arises in her: She becomes the observer as well the observed.  The observer in her is a male and the observed a female. She comes to think of herself as an object of sight that needs to satiate the external eyes that are constantly gazing, and judging her. This contradiction also manifests in the life of people who adhere to identities that are not accepted by a society that enforces heteronormative standards.  The beauty of the play lies in the fact that the inherent contradiction  is not told but shown, especially through acts that rely more on physical performances rather than vocal retelling. 

When the women on stage recount their lives, their story is told with a poetic flair. The artistic retelling strikes a deep chord with the audience, and as a result, the horror to women are regularly subjugated is felt by everyone who is part of the play: The actors, as well as the audience.   

It is the imaginative retelling of the stories with the juxtaposition of horror with the comic has made the play ever so popular, drawing larger audience every year. When Vagina Monologues was first staged in Nepal in 2010, it was met with either resistance or indifference, as a result the play was not staged again in the country for the next five years. Since 2015, the play is being staged annually—in Nepali as well as in English—and is bringing people from all walks of life, of all ages to watch the play. As a consequence, a greater dialogue has started to take place within the Nepali context. A small semblance of the dialogue has appeared in various social media platforms. And, as is the case with every attempt on a dialogue, there are voices countering the efforts of the Vagina Monologues. During the previous editions of the play, somebody had threatened to start a penis monologue. “By watching the play, women have realised that they are not isolated,” Akanchha Karki and Gunjan Dixit, the co-directors of the play, shared in an earlier interview with the Post, “Knowing that there are others who share your desires and fear, it opens up a space to debunk myths and rethink our identities as women.”

Published: 08-03-2018 10:25

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