Vagina Tamilogues

Brief version
Times of India
Do you think the works of such women poets have helped widen society’s views on women’s bodies in some way? Do you see more women becoming aware of their bodies and not being ashamed of it because of reading such texts?
Leena Manimekalai
Ofcourse yes, I would say.Body for a woman in this patriarchal moralist society is a Prison. There is a constant  vigilance by institutions like say state,religion,family,caste on a woman’s body. Her roles as a wife, mother, sister and likes are inscribed in her body. When women resist the construct and try to write as an act of subversion, she is again left with the patriarchal tool called language. When a woman becomes aware, questioning arises, conflict intensifies, change evolves. Poetry certainly helps women to become self aware. Lot of my women readers particularly young women readers have written and spoken to me about how poetry helped them to negotiate the guilt  they have been conditioned about their bodies, desire and identities.
Times of India
Are you seeing more women poets emerging in this field? Women like Salma, Kutti Revathi and Malathi Maithri gained fame in the early 90s for their work but have you seen younger entrants in the field since then?
Leena Manimekalai
It is not early 90s. It is in the beginning of 2000. This is the period when non Brahman and Dalit women  came as a force in tamil literary expression. It is an out burst of long history of oppression and denial to knowledge, arts and expression to them..About young entrants, yes for me, they(Malathi,Kutti Revathi,Suganthi Subramanaim) were there with the lanterns. Now I am here , as an electrode. There will be someone who will be a cyborg down the lane.
Times of India
How have you approached the subject of women’s bodies in your work? Can you give us a few details about such projects?
Leena Manimekalai
For me, poetry is translating desire. I kind of try and challenge the existing design. I drink my menstrual blood when someone says, it is impure. I would recommend a piercing in clitoris when someone comes with a knife to do genital mutilation.  I am attracted to both women and men and am pro choice with regards to sexuality. I write this, I practice the same and try to live free. I can only talk about change, when I live free. As an artiste, Its impossible for me to be faithful to power structures including ideologies. And I detest censorship.
If all this is comprehended as living dangerous, I am happy, I have chosen it. Because safety is slavery.
Times of India
Could you tell us in detail what ‘Ulakin Azhakiya Muthal Penn’ is about? What stirred the controversy with Hindu Makkal Katchi? Why was the content referred to as ‘obscene’?
Leena Manimekalai
 There is an asymmetrical relations between woman and language whose norms and usage are controlled by dominant patriarchy. The problem lies with the linguistic codes that are embedded in a culture – gender specific socialization that prohibits women from speaking or writing about issues that are potentially considered socially disruptive. Desire can be a dirty word to some religious and ideological fanatics but not to a poet.Maybe, for them true indian respect to women is  equivalent to treating them asexual. Religious definitions of “obscenity” “indecency”, slip to dangerous propositions like moral policing and result in a threat to freedom of expression. This puritanical notion neither liberate or empower women or men not nurture art.
Times of India
Your blog mentions you took up a visual arts fellowship with PSBT on Tamil women, poetry and desire through the ages of Sangam, Medieval and Modern Periods. Could you tell us about that? Did you come across any interesting findings?
Leena Manimekalai
A man forges his early creative work from the expanse of his imagination and from the world of abstractions traversed by his mind. In contrast, a woman, I believe, mines the boarded-up space that is her body for words and offers them to the world. As a means of protesting the silence into which it has been coerced, the female body keeps imprinting on itself all the seasonal changes being wrought continuously by Nature.The film will explore the passionate language of women writers in Tamil literature from Sangam to Contemporary times who know where to situate their bodies, themselves and their poetry. It would like to explore how the body emerges in their poems as something they own but as something that is constantly put in a space that falls within both the private and public spheres. The film will be interested to interpret how these poems see the body both as a site of struggle and celebration. Birth, death and love get written on the body and also violence, violation and power.. The film will try and imprint the enigmatic envision of sensuality in Sangam to present Tamil women poetry.
Times of India
Finally, could you talk to us about your future projects?
Leena Manimekalai
My current project is Sengadal(www.sengadal.com), which is my debu fiction feature film, and scheduled to be completed by September end. My PSBT fellowship film should be finished by this December and am also at the moment compiling my third collection of poetry “Parathaiyargalin Raani”i.e “Queen of Sluts” in English.
Karthika Gopalakrishnan for Times of India  
Published Version
 
 
 
Vagina Tamilogues

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