I am submitting my PhD Thesis for examination, titled ‘PAPER CHOREOGRAPHY:
My ancestors dance through me
Experimenting with the Unarchival of a South African South Asian Dancer’s Family Archive while Exploring ‘Indian-ness’ and Interwoven Dance Cultures and its pedagogical contribution to or implications for the reconfiguring of the Archive ‘ in March 2023. My fields of expertise are Dance South Asian, Global and Interwoven, as well as 60-year-old family dance archive. I am using it as an instrument to explore absent and living archives in an ‘unarchival process.
My abstract of my PhD thesis could unpack my research in a more effective manner:
The aim of this study was to be able to see the indigenous/marginalised in territory that was previously dominated by a white/colonial presence, in places and spaces that are non-traditional. The idea was to utilise artefacts of my family dance archive, in creative ways, to highlight the interweaving of cultures, while also disrupting the notion of purity and authenticity around South Asian dance with a melange interweaving of the archive of dance styles present in my body of work. The research methodology utilised was autoethnography/biography, with yarning/storytelling to acknowledge the geneaology/genesis of the perceived Indian monolithic culture in both India and South Africa. This study will focus on the process of the ‘unarchival’ of my physical family dance archive and, my South Asian dancing body which is a palimpsestic, embodied, living archive. This involved curating an online exhibition of groupings of artefacts, of re-presenting and re-storying, deconstructing and reconstructing my family archive, thereby making them both emancipated and accessible. I argued that the archive is not limited to ‘Indian-ness’, but consists of an early interweaving and intermingling of cultures. The physical artefacts were used to create various iterations of “paper choreography” as my creative work activates the family archive, using paper to enable movement/dance. There was experimentation with age-old modes and my curatorial role in preserving and perpetuating my family’s dance origins which intersects with South Asian dance in South Africa more broadly, and particularly its pedagogy. This study addressed the dearth in the field in the South African academy. The relevance/importance of the study to the field is that the unarchival process/act is seen as a relatively unexplored area, not just in reconfiguring an archive, but also the embodiment of the culture and identity of South Asian dance and dancers that are often mis/under-represented and misunderstood.