© 2015 Sheetal Gandhi
all rights reserved
Cultural Exchange International (CEI)
Working with Surinamese-Hindustani Communities in Holland
In 2012, Sheetal received the Cultural Exchange International (CEI) Fellowship from the Los Angeles Dept. of Cultural Affairs in support of a four week residency at The Bijlmer ParkTheater in Amsterdam. Sheetal worked with the Surinamese Hindustani community as well as other people of Indian origin to create dialogue around their unique experiences and feelings of being Indian and of living in an Indian diaspora. Through a series of workshops with Sheetal, volunteers were guided through a process where they shared their personal stories, engaged in critical dialog, participated in movement explorations, and ultimately brought it all onto the stage to share with others. The group explored and found ways to creatively express the complexities of living between two cultures, the Dutch and the Hindustani, and the particular intergenerational issues that come up between parents and kids.
The development of Sheetal’s solo dance-theater show, Bahu-Beti-Biwi, was partially based on her research and interpretations of a genre of songs that women sing in North India. During July and August of 2007, Sheetal lived with two women from two different hereditary musician castes in the desert regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Her essential focus was to reveal the depth and complexity of a woman’s experience by choreographically illuminating the various realities that these women express in their songs. By immersing herself in these communities, she had the opportunity to learn and record their songs as well as better understand what the songs mean for them.
In 1993, guided by an instinct inspired by a deep love for rhythm, Sheetal boarded a plane for Ghana, West Africa to study their traditional music and dance for one year. In Ghana, Sheetal’s talent was recognized by master drummer/dancer Habib Iddrisu. Habib invited Sheetal to join his company, The Novisi Cultural Troupe, where she learned and performed complex dances and drum rhythms from various parts of West Africa. It was the first time that Ghanaians would see a foreigner perform traditional dances alongside other Ghanaians. Sheetal traveled with the troupe from local villages and Chief’s funerals to tourist events and the American Embassy. Sheetal also learned to play the Calabash, a dried gourd known as mani. She learned the rhythms and songs associated with the mani, traditionally played and sung by the women from the Dagbamba region in Northern Ghana. She also plays the West African Xylophone.
“It's clear how deeply you touched people's lives. You are an outstanding ambassador of LA and the US!”
Dan Kwong, performance artist