(The Black Mamba featuring Natasha Mendonca and Suman Sridhar, work-in-progress)
In this live-cinema performance, Indian artists Natasha Mendonca and Suman Sridhar take on their country’s legacy of colonialism through the contested story of Nangeli, an early 19th-century peasant whose brutal death remains a subject of debate. Did Nangeli mutilate herself in protest of the British-imposed “breast tax,” which forced lower-caste women to pay a fee in order to cover themselves in public, or was she killed by the occupier for her bold resistance?
Through narration, poetry, and songs that incorporate elements of Bollywood, hip-hop, classical Indian music, and funeral lamentation, this legendary woman is remembered and mourned. Moving images and archival photographs underscore the clash between indigenous oral history and colonial discourses, raising questions about who has the power to record the past—and whose account gets remembered. This collaboration between Mumbai-based filmmaker Mendonca and singer, songwriter, and actress Sridhar is supported by a 2018–19 Wexner Center Artist Residency Award. Their work is a culmination of a two-month residency in the studio and a partnership with Associação Cultural Videobrasil, São Paulo. (66 mins.; HD video, live and prerecorded music, live narration)