Priyanka Jain, a visual story-teller from India, is all set to take Australian audiences on a 55-minute audience-interactive narration journey that connects ancient tales with contemporary knowing.
Priyanka has studied BFA at Rabindra Bharati University (India), MFA at Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste (Germany), and is pursuing a Ph.D. at RMIT University (Australia).
She has developed this show, Why Runs The Abhisarika, as part of her practice-led research into contemporising picture recitation traditions.
Priyanka told The Australia Today:
“This picture recitation in English spokenword poetry accompanied by Indian dance moves and embellished with visuals in set design, props and costume, investigates Abhisarika’s psychosomatic landscape in a simplified language of science communication.”
Priyanka says that once such traditions were very active in India but are now surviving among only a small group of practitioners.
“You might just feel like you are also an Abhisarika! You might just discover the Abhisarika in you!”
For the uninitiated, picture recitation is the art of storytelling in verse while showing images on a visual prop, which are simultaneously mentioned in the oral narrative.
“Many forms of this art were performed in India but are now nearly extinct, partially suffering neglect during European colonisation.”
The Abhisarika is one of the eight types of heroines mentioned in classical Sanskrit literature.
“Seven of the heroines wait for their lovers to come to them but the Abhisarika (not a passive character) runs out to meet her lover, sometimes even on dark stormy nights. Instead of narrating her love story, the performance ponders on her act of ignoring social conventions, running and risk-taking.”
Through this performance in which she is the author, artist, director, and performer, Priyanka tries to imagine how Indian picture recitation practices would have evolved, had aspects of European colonialism in India (1757-1947) not hindered their development.
Priyanka’s picture recitation explores the motifs of Abhisarika’s iconography as found in various medieval Indian miniature paintings such as snakes, trees, lightning, etc.
“I interpret Abhisarika’s psychosomatic landscape through the lenses of contemporary neuroscientific research especially related to the neurotransmitter Dopamine.”
Just like modern-day murder mysteries on Netflix, the audience in Priyanka’s show is also invited to interact and choose the motifs one after another and decide the sequence of the performance.
Why Runs The Abhisarika debuts in Australia at the Adelaide Fringe and runs on 17th and 18th of March 2023.
Listen to Priyanka Jain’s exclusive conversation with Dr Amit Sarwal on the ancient tradition of picture recitation or the art of storytelling in verse.