There’s still an almost-deafening silence in mainstream media when it comes to the serious acknowledgement of and discussion on the issues and concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community. Even in society, there’s a gap between the queer and non-queer communities, and it remains so despite continuous effort by activists.
A unique arts movement in the Indian queer scene, The Queer Arts Movement, India or QAM(I), aims at bringing forth the voices in the queer community and providing a platform to queer artists to showcase their art.
“Art tells stories and stories is what we need to address certain questions. I feel that there’s no better way to sensitize the non-queer community towards the issues and concerns of the queer community than art festivals. I have witnessed so many straight people shedding their homophobia during our festivals when they realise that queer love stories are just human love stories. Art helps people to connect on a human level,” says Romal Laisram, human rights activist, and co-founder and director of The Queer Arts Movement, India.
QAM(I) is crowdfund-driven and works on a zero-profit budget model, where all funds collected are used for funding other social initiatives. QAM(I) organised its first event, The Festival of Free Love, in collaboration with The Humming Tree in Bangalore in 2013. Ever since, QAM(I) has organised four Festivals of Free Love that celebrate free love, without restrictions, across several venues in Bangalore.
The revenue generated through the festivals is usually diverted to fund other social causes and events like The Bangalore Queer Film Festival (BQFF), Sukhibhava and the Ejipura Working Group.
QAM(I) is also partnering with unreleased queer-themed films and their teams for private screenings across different venues in South India, like India’s first film on corrective rape, Satyavati, and Naan Avanalla, Avalu, a Kannada feature film based on the life of a transwoman.
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“I marched the first Pride in Bangalore as a media person and was overwhelmed by what I saw. I immediately involved myself in all community activities and began working with the Pride committee. Around five years ago, we were discussing ways to liaison between the LGBTQIA+ community and the general ‘mainstream’ and an art festival struck us as the most effective way. And it has proven to be so,” recalls Romal.
Through QAM(I), there has been a conscious effort to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community.
These festivals help in removing the shame associated with the identity within the community, as well as make the non-queer community realise that although each one is unique in their sexual identity, we all share the same life experiences.
The festival has given and continues to give voice to many queer artists like Mayamma, Lexi, Navin, Swar, Krithika, Raghavendran, as well as non-queer Indian women artists like Mithu Sen and Manjari Chakravarthy, whose works reflect gender fluidity.