I want to tell you a little about Desh Pradesh... I think it is important that we talk about the concept behind it as we go into the opening program. This is the second time that Desh Pradesh has happened. The first time it was also sponsored by Khush, as it is tonight. Khush is an organization largely of gay men in Toronto. Desh was conceived largely by a good friend of ours, Ian Rashid, who is here today. He called together and excited people into the concept, and put on the first Desh Pradesh last April in 1990. It was a huge success. It was a two day event.
Desh Pradesh was conceived because there are so many of us who are South Asians living in Western countries doing cultural work and political organizing, producing films and videos; we're writing poetry, literature, we're doing performance, theatre, and much more. We're doing it in a very different form from the traditional South Asian culture that comes either through popular movies, popular culture or the largely upper class, classical traditions. Many of us are working outside those forms because our lives speak to something else. Our lives tell all of our diverse histories and identities as South Asians, and our work speaks to who we have become, different from each other and yet mapping the points where we can come together as well.
This year's Desh tries to bring forward the voices inside the South Asian community that otherwise have no voice either within the community or in the societies in which we live. The voices of women, political organizers, feminists, and the voices of lesbians and gays who find ourselves silenced about our sexuality in the company of South Asians, or find ourselves whitewashed inside existing white dominated lesbian and gay communities. It also allows voice for those of us who are working actively and consciously against the racism that we experience in the West. And in that we have a very marked and clear historical and political difference from South Asian people living on the Sub-Continent.
Desh Pradesh also tries to cut across all of the different communities that define 'South Asian' here in Canada, the United States and in England. It's important at this point, particularly given the political context that we live in, that we work against the kind of communalism, nationalism and the 'divide and conquer' tactics that racism that has used and is using all around the world. As such, we have made a conscious effort with this year's program to bring forward the views of South Asians who originate from all over the Sub-Continent, the Caribbean and Africa. And I think what this speaks to is a real conscious movement towards unity for progressive social change in the world that we actually live in. It is a moving away from romantic notions of nostalgia towards a forum within which we speak from our real memories, without any kind of shame or apology; within which we can begin to organize against racism, sexism, homophobia, and from which we can extend genuine solidarity to our other sisters and brothers, people of colour communities around us who also know in their bodies the experience of racism and, in North America in particular, the First Nations peoples.
This is not a traditional arts festival, so to speak. Political and social themes are integral to the various workshops and discussions and to the artistic programs that are in the Desh Pradesh calendar. We don't think that art can be without content. No matter what you do, say or create, you are always taking a position, making some kind of statement. The decision is whether to fall into the status quo or rise up against it. We hope that this Desh takes us one step further towards a movement of South Asians in the West working against the status quo for a more just and humane life for all of us.