Mining the earth away

Goa. The name evokes images of beaches, Konkani and Portugese heritage and the good life. And perhaps of drug peddling, sex trafficking and other vices. However, over the last few years, the state has been in the news for the rampant unlawful mining of low grade iron ore that is exported to China. (It is important to note that iron ore mining dates back to the period of Portugese rule in India). The consequent damage to the water bodies, indigenous communities and biodiversity in the state have been brought to the forefront thanks to the relentless efforts of people such as Hartman D’Souza. A theatre performer, journalist and environmental activist, D’Souza has been actively involved in opposing mining and also highlighting its terrible fallout.

One of the methods that D’Souza has employed to convey his message is the staging of thought provoking plays that depict various social injustices. He does this through his Society for Promoting Arts, Culture and Education (SPACE) Theatre Ensemble, a troupe of young performers that he has trained.

A recent production that SPACE has staged over 120 times so far, in various parts of the country, is Creatures of the Earth. A 37-minute long piece combining jazz and movement, this scintillating performance revisits the legend of Paikeachi Zor, a sacred spring in the forests of Quepem in southern Goa. The inhabitants of these jungles that include people and wildlife, the earth, the trees, the water and the wind come alive in this production. Acclaimed film maker from the city, K. P. Sasi termed this "aesthetically brilliant". Portraying the harmony of life from dawn to dusk, the creatures also bring out the plunder of these forests by men and their machines.

Kurush Canteenwalla’s documentary Goa, Goa, Gone set the tone for a programme on this subject held at Bangalore’s United Theological College (UTC) on 23rd December 2011. This film captures the stories of marginal farmers, cattle herders and others on whose livelihoods the mining dust has been having an adverse impact. Photographs that put forth an insightful imagery of Goa’s dying ecology and tribes such as Velips, Kunbis, Dhangars and Gawdas, were on display.

Pics. courtesy: SPACE Theatre Ensemble

At the end of the breathtaking show in UTC, Terence Jorge, one of the artistes shared, "We have had mixed responses from audiences in colleges, government and private organizations and public places. People opposing the nuclear plant in Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu and adivasis struggling against corporate lobbies in Chattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand encouraged us". This 24 year old is among those felt urged to get involved in the fight against mining after hearing about the destruction that it causes. Andrea Pereira aged 23 and Stephie Madurel who is all of 19 years, round up the trio of talented and enthusiastic performers. The young Steve Siqueira who has composed, arranged and played soulful yet powerful music and photographer Lionel Pereira lend vital support in other departments.

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