Masks & Myths: Devils & Dancers

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$5,004 raised of $5,000 goal
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Funded on June 04, 2018
    • 100% contributed

It’s 1893 and Chicago bears witness to the World’s Fair. Crowds experience the great Ferris Wheel and classical marble architecture, teas and spices, and performers from around the globe including Sri Lanka, once considered the “jewel” of the British Empire. What is little known about this time, however, is that these “travelers” and “performers” were exhibited through a western, colonizing gaze. Dubbed “devil dancers,” Sri Lankan artists were displayed without context or cultural understanding. 125 years later, in 2018, I and my collaborators want to restate and reclaim those “displays” in order to debunk the mythology surrounding our roots and share the richness of these art forms that rarely have a space in Chicago—and let the artists speak for themselves. In October 2018, I am leading a team to present Masks and Myths in Hyde Park through a series of performances, dialogues, and workshops. This is an ambitious project, one of the largest and most significant projects I’ve ever led. This team is brilliant, and I’m lucky to work with each artist and organization, but I need the community’s help to make it happen.

About This Project

I’m a long-standing Chicago artist with a background in classical Indian dance forms, music, poetry, and their ethnographies. My career has been a thrilling mix of choreography, production, and curation. With this project I’m expanding my toolbox to create a quintessential Chicago moment that I hope will awaken and rewrite history.

To many, the Midway Plaisance has been a haunting memorial of Chicago’s past. While the World’s Fair was a pivotal moment in American history, catalyzing our thirst for globalization, it was also a dark moment for many colonized communities. I saw the impact of this firsthand when my company Mandala Arts brought Sri Lankan artist and scholar Sudesh Mantillake to the University of Chicago for a presentation in 2017. When Sudesh approached the Midway Plaisance, where his ancestral artists were once “displayed,” tears came to his eyes. In that moment, I knew we had to create something new from these broken feelings. We needed to liberate artists, both those who came before us and those in the generations to come. Here was a chance to bring together Chicago’s diasporic and post-colonial communities!

To present Masks & Myths, we are going back to where the World’s Fair took place 125 years ago: in Jackson Park, Washington Park, and the Midway Plaisance. We want to start a dialogue, but we also want to share the beauty of these art forms that are rarely seen. We have chosen venues and communities within this area, including the Logan Center for the Arts and Englewood Montessori School to serve as partners. As we approach our final presentation in October, we hope to generate a conversation about our shared history through community performances and workshops.

My goal is to transport back through time—through ancient art forms, 3D historical set pieces, actual narratives—and then build forward to how these forms speak today. Every art form changes and flows over the course of time, and they change due to certain events. How did the World’s Fair, colonization, globalization, and liberation change these forms? I’m creating the space for these questions to be asked and delivered.

Your donations will help us create the landscape for our journey back in time, including set pieces and artists. Your donations will help us reach out to Chicago’s communities and to make this a uniquely Chicago experience, all the while giving our global and diasporic communities a platform to create, learn, and understand. Help us make this the significant project that we believe and know it is. We want our audiences and artists to find peace and community through this process. Thank you!

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $25
    Personal thank you on social media ($25.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Your name acknowledged in program brochures ($50.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    All of the above, plus a signed flier from cast/crew and 1 ticket to “Masks and Myths” ($75.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $200
    All of the above, plus 4 tickets to “Masks and Myths” ($100.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    All of the above, plus a meeting with the artists at Mandala Studio with champagne reception ($400.00 is tax deductible.)

Pranita Nayar

For over 25 years, I have been active in Chicago as an artist, director, and curator of dance and a wealth of performing arts forms. Currently, I am the Artistic Director of Mandala South Asian Performing Arts, where I lend …

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    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • Armani Jain


    • Sanjiv Nayar

    • anjali shinde

    • Rekha Tobaccowala

    • Bina Mehta

    • Maya Tatineni

    • Sonya Patel

    • Daniel Neuman

    • Nina Mehta

    • Mohanbir Sawhney

    • Alok Mehta

    • Meera Nayar

    • Atish Mehta

    • Karen Mozer

    • Raja Nadimpalli

    • Kavita Surana

    • Elizabeth Hubbard

    • Suma Pandhi

    • Saurab Bhargava

    • Pradeep Chintagunta

    • Mandeep & Gurpal Singh

    • Catherine Tanner

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3AP Presenting Partner:

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 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council