The life of the classic Polish-Romani poet and singer Papusza will be presented in a belly-dance production by Nrityakosh led by Debapriya Das

Although a trailblazer of her times, Polish-Romani classic poet and singer Bronislawa Wajs, known by her Romani name Papusza, is hardly showcased in any medium. Born in 1908, Papusza learnt how to read and write, her wishes and dreams flowered into poetry, but was ridiculed and banished from her community for her progressive thoughts.

Bengaluru-based production house Nrityakosh will be presenting its latest production, ‘Papusza: Life of a Great Romani Poet’ led by dancer and founder Debapriya Das and her husband Ankur Ghosh. The production is set to premiere on November 9 at ADA Rangamadira on JC Road.

“Papusza’s life is both fascinating and tragic. She was a path-breaker, a female poet in a culture that deemed literacy ‘unsuitable’ for women. While her art made her the first Roma woman to be included in the Polish Literary Union, it also led to her being exiled by her own people. She died in 1987,” says Debapriya says Debapriya who will take on the lead role in the belly-dance production. “The production is the story of her relentless spirit and her quest for freedom to express herself through her art.” The 75-minute crowd-funded production uses various styles of belly dance and its fusion forms to narrate her story.

Muwashshahat, Classical Egyptian oriental, Egyptian folklore, Modern oriental, Hagallah influences from American Tribal Style and Tribal Fusion will be some of the styles to be showcased. “You will also see pieces that have elements of Kathak, Flamenco and contemporary dance,” says Debapriya. The music used is also heavily influenced by Egyptian and Bollywood cinema, with a Hindi number ‘Hafiz Hafiz’ by Mohit Chauhan used in a different way.

According to Debapriya’s extensive research at Budapest, when she was part of her belly-dance training and performances at Europe, Papusza had learned to read by trading chickens in exchange for lessons with local villagers. “When the elders found her reading, her books were destroyed. Her marriage to a revered harpist Dionizy Wajs when she was barely 15, turned out to be an unhappy one, as he was 25 years older to her. She took to singing and composing ballads and songs as an outlet for her frustrations. In 1949 she was heard by the Polish poet Jerzy Ficowski, who eventually published most of her work.

Papusza’s poems spoke of poverty, impossible love, rootlessness and the life on the long road. However, after the Holocaust victimised the Romas along with the Jews, she wrote of their suffering during the war.

Debapriya, who holds a Master’s degree in Economics and has represented India in various international oriental dance festivals. Nrityakosh, started in 2017, retains the dance form not from an entertainment point of view, but from an artistic, storytelling viewpoint.

Papusza: Life of a Great Romani Poet,’ belly-dance production by Debapriya Das, November 9, 3-30pm & 7pm, ADA Rangamandira, JC Road. Tickets – bookmyshow.com

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