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CADALFEST (Celebrating Adivasi and Dalit Arts and Literature Festival)

14 Oct, 2022 - 15 Oct, 2022

The Celebrating Adivasi and Dalit Arts and Literature Festival is the first international festival series dedicated to the writing and performance arts by writers whose work creatively resists caste discrimination and social exclusion in India.

This will be a unique opportunity to experience and interact with these writers whose vision of social justice, democracy and equality is inspiring and powerful.

The playwright and actor Saraswathi D will perform her one-woman play Santimmi Ramayna, which is a re-telling of the Indian epic. The acclaimed poets Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy, Jacinta Kerketta, Kalyani Thakur and Jameela Nishat will read from their work and discuss their journeys and motivation as writers.

A panel discussion on their artistic and activist practice will offer insight into the challenges they currently encounter in India and the strategies they developed to make their voices heard. And their voices can be heard, even far from India.

All events will be concluded by audience Q&A.

Book your free tickets.

The CADALFEST series also organises events in various locations in India between October and December 2022, and is funded by the UK Arts and Humanities research council, Nottingham Trent University’s Postcolonial Studies Centre and the research center EMMA at the Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, France. For more information visit the CADALFEST website.


The one-woman play, Santimmi Ramayna

14 October 7-8.30pm

Saraswathi D performs her one-woman play Santimmi Ramayna which re-tells the epic Ramayana from a Dalit feminist perspective, from the world view of Dalit women, that is sympathetic to the female characters. The play spotlights the narrator’s role in deftly undermining more emphatically patriarchal renditions of the epic while also foregrounding women’s labour and women’s oral storytelling traditions: a coconut grater will play a central role!

The play is performed in the South Indian language Kannada and the English translation by the author will be made available to the audience. The introduction before the performance will provide enough context for non-Kannada speakers to enjoy and appreciate Saraswathi D’s craft and message in this play.

‘What is this bloody pure and impure…. The food we eat is so pure that it is offered to god. But when it turns into shit, it becomes impure. The same impure shit becomes manure to grow food. Sita had burnt her desires to ashes in the prime of youth……what fire can burn her…. She firmly stood still. Even the fire could not face that firmness.’

Book your free ticket | Download the English Translation of Santimmi Ramayna


Dalit and Adivasi Writers: Reading and Dialogue

15 October 1-3.30pm

The acclaimed poets Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy, Jacinta Kerketta, Kalyani Thakur and Jameela Nishat will read from their work in both their mother tongues and in English translation and talk to each other about their journeys as writers from marginalised and oppressed backgrounds. Their writing is distinct and unique but they also perform as the voice of many silenced members of their communities.

Book your free ticket.

Jameela Nishat, from Butterfly Caresses:

My fingers think, my pen is still

But a caravan of words starts to move at my touch.


Mudnakudu Chinnaswmay, from Before It Rains Again:

White ants


The Hindu religion is

a big tree.

Brahmins are the roots,

Kshatriyas the trunk,

Vaishyas, Shudras and the rest

branches and twigs.


Not related to the tree,

but still obliged to stay here

are the white ants,  

the untouchables.

Two poets will read from their work and interact with each other  Q&A; intermission with bar break; the other two poets follow the same pattern (140 minutes).


Changing the World through Literature and Activism (Panel discussion)

15 October 4.30-6pm

Saraswathi D, Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy, Jacinta Kerketta, Kalyani Thakur and Jameela Nishat will talk about their writing and how it relates to and informs their activist work. They create beautiful poetry, plays and novels and are at the same time deeply involved in working for and with their communities.

Book your free ticket.

Jacinta Kerketta, from Ishwar and Bazaar, transl. Bhumika Chawla D’Souza:

The wait


They are waiting for us to become civilised,

While we are waiting for them to turn human.


Kalyani Thakur, from Andhar Bil:

When they were in their native land, these people spent most of the year on the island-like mounds surrounded by water. To go to another house, one could not do without a boat or donga. Over there, their work included fishing, sowing paddy, harvesting jute plants by diving repeatedly into the water and rowing tabure, the small water taxis.


Author Biographies

Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy, a renowned Kannada poet and writer, hails from Mudnakudu village in Chamarajanagar District of Karnataka in South India. He has two postgraduate degrees. Poetry is his passion, but he has worked in other genres of literature as well. He has brought out 40 books so far, which include eight collections of poetry, five of essays, three plays, and two collections of short stories. A prominent Dalit voice, he has established a niche for himself through his empirical imaging in mellowed voice. An English translation of his poetry Before It Rains Again was published in the UK by Erbacce Press and in India by Yoda Press. See his website for further information in Kannada: www.mudnakudu.com.

Jacinta Kerketta, voice from the Adivasi land of India, voice of the forest, hills and rivers.  Jacinta Kerketta, born in Khudpos, West Singhbhum district, Jharkhand, is an Indian journalist and poet. Part of the indigenous community of the Oraon, she writes her poems and journalistic works in Hindi. Her lyrical work is an expression of protest against the conditions under which the Adivasi are suffering in India. Her poetry collections include Angor (2016) published by Adivaani, Kolkata and Jadon Ki Zamin/Land of the Roots (2018) published by Bhartiya Jnanpith, New Delhi and Draupadi, Heidelberg. Her most recent collection is Ishwar aur Bazaar (2022) published by Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi. Her works have also been translated into English, German, Italian and French. She has received the Indigenous Voice of Asia’s Recognition Award in 2014 by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Thailand.

Jameela Nishat is an Urdu poet and editor from Hyderabad, India. Her published collections of poetry include Lava (2000) and Butterfly Caresses (2015), published by Partridge. She has also written for a number of poetry magazines, including Kitab Numa, a journal published by Jamia Millia University in Delhi. Jameela is founder of Shaheen Women’s Resource and Welfare Association; Shaheen’s Qawwali group performed Song of the Caged Birds online at NAE for Nottingham’s Mela 2021.

Saraswathi D is a writer and activist. Through creative and academic writing, theatre, songs, campaigning, and research, Saraswathi D has been associated with Dalit, unorganized labour sector and women’s movements for thirty years. Her doctoral thesis is titled ‘Community under siege: socio-cultural study of safai karmacharies in Karnataka from feminist perspective’, and was submitted to Akkamahadevi Women’s University, Vijayapura Karnataka State, India. Theatre, research, writing, and storytelling have influenced the core of Saraswathi’s work in the social sector and she has contributed to literature, discourse development, curatorial perspectives, and made interventions in social, cultural and academic spheres.

Kalyani Thakur Charal is a Dalit feminist and poet writing in the Bengali language. She was born in Bagula, Nadia District, West Bengal, within the Matua community. She has published four books of poetry, a collection of short stories, and a collection of essays, and has edited four books and various special issues of journals on topics such as folklore, water, refugees, Dalit poetry, and Indian women’s writing, including Dalit Lekhika: Women’s Writings from Bengal (with Sayantan Dasgupta) published by Stree in 2020. Her novel Andhar Bil – and Some People will be published in English translation by ZUBAAN and an English poetry collection will be published in 2023 by Tilted Axis Press.