The first-ever performance arts festival in the country to showcase only transgender performing artistes is set to begin in the city on Friday.

Organised by the International Arts and Cultural Foundation, the three-day festival with performances of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Mohiniyattam among others, will be held at the National Gallery of Modern Art.

Srivatsa Shandilya, the Managing Trustee of the Foundation, wants to emphasise through this festival that art transcends the boundaries of gender.

Echoing this sentiment, Maalika Panicker, a Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam performer based in Singapore, said "Art does not have anything to do with a person's race, caste, class or gender. I do not like to emphasise that I am a transgender artiste. I am an artiste, that's all."

An art assessor for National Arts Council in Singapore, Maalika will be one of the people performing at the fest. Maalika has a very positive outlook on life and she does not like to dwell on the challenges she faced to get where she is today. "A lot of parents in Singapore have accepted their children who are transgenders after seeing my successful career. It makes me happy that they have drawn inspiration and confidence from me and I helped them see the right path."

When Manjamma Jogithi, a Kannada Rajyotsava awardee, completed her transformation 35 years ago, her family rejected her. "I was forced to leave my house and I went to Davangere where I stayed in a temple doing chores there." Then she met her mentor, Kallavva Jogithi from whom she learnt the dance form which has taken her places.

More respect

At the festival, Manjamma and her team of 10 members from Ballari will be performing Jogithi Nritya and Choudike Pada, in which she will be dancing with the idol of Yellamma Devaru on her head. "After the Supreme Court recognised us as the third gender, the situation has improved for the community. We are getting more respect." said Manjamma.

However, the journey of acceptance is still incomplete. "The government should ensure that transgenders get education, especially of the arts, as it will help our community get a responsible position in the society."

The other artistes performing at the festival are Thiru Nangai Narthaki Narataj, Bharatanatyam dancer and a recipient of Sangeet Natak Puraskar, Lakshya, a Bharatanatyam dancer from Chennai, Varsha Vardhanaa, a Kuchipudi dancer from Malaysia and Vasuki a dual-voice light music singer.

Award-winning Kannada movie Naanu Avanalla Avalu based on the life of a transgender woman will also be screened on July 31 as part of the festival.v

Source: Deccan Herald