★ ★ ★ ★

YATRA (Journey) – Prologue

From the home threshold of mine,
I journey through earth and time.

Crossing borders drawn
By armies over land torn.

A border is strange, merely a line
It shifts, twists and heaves,

Marks yours from mine
Marks land water and air
It marks the dark from the fair.

It dissolves every night as I look to the moon.
Then new roads unfurl through morning and noon.

As I step across the threshold of the other.
The other has now become my brother.

We sit by the fire
that crackles and moans,
I tell him my stories.
He tells me his own.

Our tongues are different, as are our names.
The gods we worship are not the same.

But fragments of past shimmer through the flames
Show us common roots travelled,
from the deserts of Rajasthan to the mountains of Spain.

Artist Statement – Alka Raghuram

I paint and make films to tell my stories and interpret the stories of others. I am an immigrant. I grew up in India and now live in America. The process of moving homes is also a process of becoming, of re-forming, of leaving the past and imagining a new story for yourself, that becomes a map for the future.

When I read stories of people fleeing their land and homes, of forced migrations, of refugees, my most intimate access to their experience is through evoking my own, and building on it with the published details of their lives. I imagine their stories, the pain, the horror, the helplessness, and the hope. It is this merging of self with the other that my paintings Self Portraits With Masks, Mermaids and Memory try to capture.

And in this spirit, I’d like to invite the viewers to imagine themselves with the masks and share their responses, any story, personal, from the news, fictional or imagined, that come to mind.

This short film is an excerpt from the multimedia performance YATRA (Journey), a collaboration between the late Pandit Chitresh Das (Kathak), Antonio Hidalgo Paz (Flamenco) and myself, exploring the similarities and differences between the two dance forms that share some historical roots, premiering at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco in September 2014. The performance included a series of filmic vignettes, which were comprised of video, original artwork and poetry to connect the performance into a narrative of artistic journey and shared heritage.

Alka Raghuram is a filmmaker and a multidisciplinary artist who just finished a feature documentary, Burqa Boxers, about Muslim women boxers in Kolkata India. Burqa Boxers was developed with the support of ITVS’ Diversity Development Fund. It was invited to the Open Doors co-production market at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland in 2011 where it was awarded the top prize Grant Open Doors.

In 2012 Alka created a photo, video and art installation based on the project at the Locarno Film Festival. The project is partly funded by CNC, France.

In September 2014, Alka collaborated with dancers Pandit Chitresh Das (Indian, Kathak) and Antonio Hidalgo Paz (Flamenco) to create video vignettes for their performance Yatra (Journey) comprising of poetry, photography, painting and calligraphy about the historical connection between the two dance forms. The performance premiered at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Her fiction script “The Conqueror” was invited to Berlin Talent Project Market in 2008, and also Tribeca All Access, where Alka was awarded the L’Oreal Woman of Worth Vision Filmmaker Award.

Alka’s  short films Tired of Dancing, Panchali and The Ant and The Monkey have screened at various festivals in the US and abroad. Panchali received the John Gutman award for innovation in cinema and was a regional finalist in the Student Academy Awards (2004). The Ant and The Monkey received the Emerging Arts Fund in Spring 2006 from The Peninsula Community Foundation, and was nominated for the Princess Grace Award in 2005. Her paintings have been exhibited in galleries and Museums in New York.

She is a member of the California-based artist collective, Shifting Borders.

For more on the work of Shifting Borders