Indrani Nayar-Gall knows the power of sunshine.
The Indian-born Charlotte-based multi-disciplinary artist, teacher and activist has spent a lifetime illuminating societal inequities and social justice issues using her artistic creations as an access point and inspiration source for action.
Upon exploration of women’s issues in her homeland years after leaving, Nayar-Gall came to learn the facts behind the religious practice of Devadasi, a romanticized tradition of young “Temple dancers/singers” pledged to patrons and “married” to a deity as young as age 3 in the service of the temple. The outlawed-yet still practiced tradition is nothing more than enslavement and child prostitution, delivering a life sentence of destitution and shame to impoverished rural village girls and their families.
“When I found out about the Devadasi system, I was really shocked,” Nayar Gall said. “My first response was to talk about it through my visual art. Increasingly I’ve come to recognize my art stays within the walls of a gallery. I felt I needed to find a medium that more people can see and respond to.”
Despite her lack of filmmaking experience, a shoestring budget and limited resources, Nayar-Gall embarked on an ambitious documentary filmmaking project, Devadasi_NOW to shed light on the issue. The short film documents the illegal, yet persistent Devadasi system, the impact on young women’s lives and struggling efforts underway to combat it. Completed at the end of 2106, the film made its debut earlier this year in Wilmington, NC at the Wilmington Female Filmmakers ChickFlicks Festival.
“My goal with the film is to bring these stories from remote villages to light and bring increasing pressure to eradicate the practice,” said Nayar-Gall. “I also want people to bring more stories to me. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface and look to continue exposing the practice and raise funds for skill-training and educational programs for Devadasis and their daughters.”
Nayar-Gall is particularly touched by the humanity, hope and dreams of the older Devadasi who desperately look to break the cycle for their children.
“These are beautiful industrious women who want a better life for the next generation,” Nayar-Gall said. “I’ve worked with them, they are smart and want to become educated. They deserve a life of freedom, not a life sentence.”
Learn more and how to support the project at Nayar-Gall’s website: http://www.indraninayargall.com/.