“Pause & Uncertainty Are My Friends Now”: A Conversation with Dipankar Mukherjee

Call & Response asked some questions about truth, art, and scared practices to Dipankar Mukherjee, Pangea World Theater’s Artistic Director.

Dipankar Mukherjee is a professional director originally from Calcutta, India with a 25-year history of directing. He is the Artistic Director of Pangea World Theater. He co-founded Pangea World Theater, an international theater in Minneapolis that is a progressive space for arts and dialogue. His aesthetics have evolved through his commitment to social justice, equity and deep spirituality and these factors along with relevant politics form the basis of his work. As a director, he has worked in India, England, Canada and the United States. Dipankar has received the Humphrey Institute Fellowship to Salzburg and has been a Ford Foundation delegate to India and Lebanon. He is a recent recipient of the Bush Leadership Fellowship award to study non-violence and peace methodologies in India and South Africa. Dipankar was invited to visit the White House as part of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Delegation. In his rehearsal and workshop practices, Dipankar’s facilitated processes that work to disrupt colonial, racist and patriarchal modalities that we have inherited and collaboratively searches for an alternate way of working.


C&R: Is there an object or a practice (sacred or mundane) that gives you solace in these dark times? 

yes!

i light an oil lamp given to me by my teacher.

my elders..my teachers..my parents..all comes into my consciousness…

we ring a bell….

alone.

..with our ensemble.and 

be SILENT

for a few minutes..

cross the threshold ..go inwards..and

…. listen deep.

consciously look at a lilac

..a tree in our backyard..which has withstood time..

and listen and observe ….

in silence..

it tells me ..…

this too will pass..

C&R: Albert Camus, in his novel The Plague, writes: “At the beginning of a pestilence and when it ends, there’s always a propensity for rhetoric. In the first case, habits have not yet been lost; in the second, they’re returning. It is in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth–in other words, to silence.” Where is your head, and your heart, in relation to the rhetoric, to our habits, and to the silence that falls when the hard truths of calamity come into focus?

PAUSE and UNCERTAINTY…

Are my friends now..

one comforts ..the other reinforces the first!

and i practice the rigor of both

in deeply listening

and

keeping my ears to the ground.!
…the song .. we will prevail..

artists always have

and we will envision this coming and rising .. rooted in reality and truth!

C&R: What does solidarity mean to you? In your work?

‘solidarity”is in my breath! (the reison d’etre.. of Pangea )inhale ..presence and politics of authentic friendships.exhale …reciprocity of support and deep listening..always and forever..unconditionalundying and without question.

C&R: What/who have you read, seen or listened to recently that really blew you away?

engaging in conversation with thinkers and progressive artists inspire me…their thoughts..critical annalysis..speaking /listening to elders and friends in indigenous communities..their analysis of envisioning “good”unselfishly and globally!

Moments like NOW.. take me to my mother tongue.(.i need to )poetry of my mother..in bengalireading Faiz, ghalib, kabir in urdu

plays written by ismail khalidi, meena natarajan, ionesco, pinter,artaud, mahashweta devi and badal sarkar

essays by ashish kothari and arundhuti roy and noam chomsky

C&R: Does truth still matter in a “post-truth” age? What role does art play in relation to the truth?

The sun rises and the sun sets.

regardless of political and factional religious rhetoric.framing and spinning a capitalistic self-serving narrative..

Artists..and i mean political /minds with global perspective ..stand firm rooted in ethics of equity and justice.we remain unafraid and focussed ..drenched in the sweat of the present muck..and having the strength to join hands in solidarity to envision and help architect the future!thats my consciousness and truth!

C&R: What/who gives you hope right now? 

….the lilac tree in my yard..budding soft green leaves from thick dark branches.

…spiritual texts that provokes us to have love and compassion and kindness and compassion.

..trust in friends who zoom and say “hi”…i am ok and

hope you are alive!

and i say

brother LIVE..i need you!

C&R: There is no shortage of apocalyptic thinking these days. But what if we could fill the future with visions of light instead? There is a Sikh prayer that asks, “what if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” Seeing this dark moment instead as the prelude to a rebirth of sorts,  what would the world look like in 50 years if you could imagine and bring that future into being?

(love the writing ..it’s also in the mural Pangea commissioned on Lake street.)

THIS moment is all we have.

NOW! is all we are given..

time rolled into 3 alphabets

(past present future)

i believe this in my soul.

at present i go inwards..the depth is endless..

and see the rich world thats possible and the world that

already

IS

time will pass and

we will exhale and craft

as it’s already there

in our eyelids waiting to incarnate

in time!

Mural on the Plaza Centenario from Pangea’s Lake Street Arts! Program. Mural created by Goodspace Murals. Photo by Meena Natarajan.

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