On Monday, October 18, 2010, renowned Indian social activist and dancer Mallika Sarabhai spoke at the Boston University College of Fine Arts on the role of the arts in bringing about social change. The public event was co-hosted by the Pardee Center in collaboration with the BU Center for the Study of Asia, the CAS Core Curriculum, the BU School of Music, the BU School of Theatre, and the BU School of Public Health. Her visit to BU is part of a larger tour of the USA sponsored by the Asian Cultural Council and DS Foundation.
The event began with a presentation by Dr Sarabhai (view one of her recent performances at a TED meeting, here), who talked about her work around the world, especially in India, that addressed societal injustices. Her work has been bringing together classical arts and the call for social change. Speaking to a packed room, Dr Sarabhai discussed why she decided to use dance and other art forms to bring about social change. During her presentation, Dr Sarabhai also showed the audience video clips of her various performances.
Her presentation was followed by a panel conversation with Prof. Benjamín E. Juárez, Dean of the Boston University College of Fine Arts, Prof. André de Quadros of the Boston University School of Music, and Prof. Adil Najam, Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center and Pardee Professor of Global Public Policy. The panel discussion – which included a lively Q&A session with the audience – focused specially on ways to use the arts to inspire and engage the citizenry; ways to use the arts to challenge the injustices and status quo in society; and the role of the arts and institutions in facilitating social change and public education.
Mallika Sarabhai is one of India’s leading choreographers and dancers, creating and performing both classical and contemporary works. She has a PhD in organisational behaviour and has been the co-director of the prestigious arts institution, Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, for nearly 30 years. She first came to international notice when she played the role of Draupadi in Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata for 5 years, first in French and then English, performing in France, North America, Australia, Japan and Scotland. Always an activist for societal education and women’s empowerment, Mallika began using her work for change. In 1989 she created the first of her hard-hitting solo theatrical works, Shakti: The Power of Women. Since then Mallika has created numerous stage productions which have raised awareness, highlighted crucial issues and advocated change, several of which productions have toured internationally as well as throughout India.
The video of the seminar will be soon made available at the Pardee Center’s multimedia webpage.