On July 3, 2020, theater artist and playwright Pankaj Tiwari began a 320-km walk from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, to Kallis, France.
Along with his co-star Abhishek Thapar, Tiwari moved to Europe to bring awareness to the unusual situation of migrant laborers in India, who prevented the spread of the Kovid-19 epidemic after being displaced from their work cities during the lockout. Were for , In many cases across the country, started walking back to their home villages.
Tiwari himself hails from a small town in eastern Uttar Pradesh – one of the prime places in the country from which people go to distant states to find work. He calls his 320-kilometer trek in Europe The Art of Walking – a misogynistic performance.
In the Dutch province of Zeeland, Netherlands, parents Nan van Haute joined Abhishek and Pankaj to walk with them for a few hours.
When the lockdown was announced, it dealt a blow to India’s economy, and many daily wage laborers and other laborers were found to be unemployed, moneyless, food-less in precarious conditions and afraid of exposure to the virus in cramped slums in those cities. Was. .
The migrant workers were so desperate that they started moving to their homes in remote villages and small towns in India. They had no choice but to walk: trains, buses and other public transport were suspended. Barricading was done on the roads and curfew was imposed in most places. So along with his family, children and some belongings, he went home, covering a distance of between 300 km and 2,200 km. Some of them died on the way. Some of them lost their children. Some of them died on the train tracks. Some survived and reached home.
Thus, Pankaj and Abhishek begin a walking tour from Amsterdam to Calais.
Walk all over the world
“There is an attempt to link the ongoing crisis in India to the global humanitarian crisis, which gets more and more privileged as the mantra of privilege, loss and homelessness. The Walk counteracts the unfortunate path of structural violence and apathy. It is a meditation and mourning, ”says Tiwari.
Pankaj and Abhishek Thapar departing Amsterdam on Day 1 of Walking
During their visit, Tiwari and Thapar interacted with other migrant artists to build solidarity across Europe on a range of issues. They arrived at Kallis at night on 14 July, and concluded their journey with a meal, which they had cooked for the 48 refugees the following evening.
The art of walking attempts to create a space for dialogue, to play an essential role and to act as art in a crisis. Eighty percent of the production budget of this project is for migrant workers in India.
“I am from Balrampur district and am the first person in my family to actually see the plane,” says Tiwari. “I somehow got a chance to study enough and came to Europe last September. There are lots of migrants from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to the big cities of India, which are my place, my roots. After the lockdown, I was looking at images of people walking home over long distances. I am hooked.”
Pankaj Tiwari is from a small town in eastern Uttar Pradesh
Tiwari continues: “I wanted to do something with him, but didn’t know what, and how? I was then invited by a festival in the UK to create a work for him. Some curators have told me that I am a migrant artist. I thought, what does it mean to be a migrant artist and migrant laborer? How can I be contained in this globalized world with my reality and what can I do to my end? India’s issues are not taken up in international locations. When I looked for a migrant issue in Europe, Kailas came. I thought I would bridge both. ”
Now is the time
As an Indian passport holder, Tiwari cannot enter the UK without a visa. In the same way, refugees from all over the world gather in Kailas, hoping to go to the UK, but get trapped. Therefore, the last act of his performance was held near the sea, on a beach towards Britain. “We set fire to the border and created heat,” says Tiwari. “I wanted to find a concrete way to seek solutions and to create a dialogue on the issue of migration in the context of Europe as well as India. Using sustainable performance as a framework, we are pointing at long and long distances. ”
Tiwari’s aim was to raise enough funds to care for about 150 families of Indian migrant laborers for four months, as well as to help create a dialogue in Europe’s art world about the issue of migration and international laws.
“We believe that artwork should create discourse,” says Tiwari. “The Art of Walking will not wait for the art market or funding bodies or the UN to decide that this is an important issue. The art of walking places itself in the contemporary post-art market, post-UN, post-justice, post-white saviors.”