Okka has made a commitment to projects and events that are as accessible as possible, from venue to presentation, working within constraints. As the disability rights movement coined, “Nothing about us without us.”
The commonalities of all her work lie at the nexus of outside-the-box ways of incorporating literature, new media, and cultural reimaginings of women, “the Global South” and (fellow) disabled artists.
The following projects do not detail more than 100 appearances of interdisciplinary poetry and/or art performances, artist talks, nor speaking across Asia, the US, the UK, and Australia on the above issues, nor PRESS in which they’re advocated for.
[Pictures are sample performance photos, in Singapore at a solo show at ARTISTRY and in Melbourne at Emerging Writers Festival, the latter with sign language interpretation.]
Recent and Upcoming:
While at Rimbun Dahan Residency in 2014-2015, Okka wrote and worked on text and mixed media projects. She worked on poetry manuscripts there, including what is now Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis Press, 2016), one of which is the forthcoming Rope (Nine Arches Press, 2017), one of which is entirely made up of poetry relating in some sense to "the art world", broadly speaking; and several pieces from it were published as paintings and audio in the Rimbun Dahan exhibit "Bricolage" in March 2015. Another project worked on at Rimbun was Indigenous Species, a poetry-art book available now from Tilted Axis Press. Okka is working on poetry, fiction, and nonfiction as well as visual works as a PhD researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London, in the Department of Visual Cultures
The 12 Acres Project
In October and November 2014, the women of Bori Village, Banswara District, Rajasthan participated in Sandarbh’s Equilibrium Phase 2 Residency with Indonesian artist Khairani Barokka (Okka), who fell in love with their folk songs at first listen. This project consists of three picture books to illustrate visually the narrative of three songs in Wagdi, sung by Bori women in a professionally-recorded setting, and a 6-song EP, “12 Acres”.
The project aims to preserve the cultural heritage of songs in Wagdi (being an oral language without its own script), for current and future generations in Banswara District, and to bring songs traditionally sung by women into greater knowledge in the community. Crucially, a very strong motivation behind this project was Okka’s getting to know Santia Patidar, a Bori woman who happens to be hearing- and speech-impaired, who had never been told the stories behind her peers’ songs—thus, the creation of an accessible, inclusive form of storytelling for these melodies, one that was visual as well as aural for Santia and other hearing-impaired community members, became central to the residency.
Artwork from this project was published in Currently and Emotion: Translations (ed. Sophie Collins, Test Centre, 2016), one of Times Literary Supplement's 2016 Books of the Year.
[Picture shows Patidar women and Okka at Hariprem Films studios in Partapur, Rajasthan, recording the EP “12 Acres”.]
[Picture 1: a guest on EQUILIBRIUM's Open Day, listening to the EP with headphones. Picture 2: details from two pages in the "12 Acres" songbook, with lyrics and artwork: "The peacock is singing, / And a woman dressed in finery walks down the path.]
Thank you to:
Santia Patidar, Rameela Patidar, Bimji Patidar, Maya Patidar, Manjoola Patidar, Premeela Patidar, Vimla Patidar, Roshni Patidar, Surbhi Patidar, Dadi Patidar, Nitesh Patidar; the entire Bori community, especially the women’s self-help group; everyone at Sandarbh, including Shilpa Upadhyay, Lochen Upadhyay, Lala Upadhyay, Dipti Upadhyay, Veg Upadhyay, Yadev, Hitesh, Bapu, Priyank and Priyesh Gothwal; fellow artists of Equilibrium Phase 2: Nilanjana Nandy, Margriet Kim Nguyen, Aude Marie, Moumita Ghosh; Hariprem Films.
The “12 Acres” Project is dedicated to Bori Village, especially to Santia Patidar, Rameela Patidar, and their community.
Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee
Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee is a solo spoken word/performance art show that premiered at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 as Indonesia’s only representative, and has been performed in London as part of events with the Body Narratives, and Vienna at feminist hackerspace Mz Baltazar’s Laboratory, with excerpts performed at Warwick University and New Delhi at the India International Center. This is Okka’s first solo show where she is deliberately not standing 98% of the time, and always performing in accessible venues with the script available for hearing-impaired audiences. She uses blue paint ("ethereal coffee" in the coffee cup) to “reveal” neuromuscular disability and question ablenormativity, whilst wefting the room through a narrative of poems both whimsical and thought-provoking, at times including audience voices, on feminism, Southeast Asia, and life as a female artist.
With utmost thanks to main sponsor HIVOS for believing in this project wholeheartedly, to the IFTR Bursary, Sweet Venues in Edinburgh's Apex International Hotel, the Body Narratives, Mz Baltazar's Laboratory and Stefanie Wuschitz in particular, Jennifer Anne Champion, Thressia Andriati, Astrid Kusumawardhani, and generous hosts throughout.
“The Paper Forest” - Residency and Collaboration with Tutti, Inc. (AUS)
Okka led an interdisciplinary collaboration with Tutti artists across poetry writing, theatre, sound art, and visual arts on the theme of an imaginary Gondwana—a magical forest when Indonesia and Australia were one. Enjoy the video of our project from 2013 by Budaya Productions at this link.
[Pictures show Tutti artists during the project, including sound art work with gamelan.]
SERONOK! was a 2012-2013 poetry-multimedia collaboration with Elaine Foster, Illya Sumanto, Abby Latif (Malaysia and UK, poets), Ardi Kuhn and Cory Rogers (US, music) and Fairuz Sulaiman (Malaysia, visuals), performed at Urbanscapes Festival, a special two-day showing at Dia.Lo.Gue Jakarta, WORD! The Cooler Lumpur Festival, and Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.
[Trailer of Jakarta premiere.]
See PRESS for SERONOK! coverage.
Hear Artists, Hear Ability: Pentas Berbeda Bahagia
Producer, host and coperformer of "Hear Artists, Hear Ability: Pentas Berbeda Bahagia" at US Embassy Cultural Center, Jakarta, involving 6 disability rights NGOs and 20 performers. Poetry, music, monologue, all for disability rights. Thank you so much to all the wonderful performers who put in their time, effort, and passion, Yayasan Tuna Rungu Sehjira, Wisma Cheshire, ISDI, Majalah Diffa, Kartunet, Count Me In ID, and incredible simultaneous signing (of poetry, no less!) by Pinky Warouw Wickiser.
More info in PRESS.
Call and Response
"Call and Response: Women Reciting and Remixing Adzan" (2010) allows women to respond to the Muslim call to prayer (adzan) with their own sonic, emotional responses. It is not meant to denigrate any set of beliefs. Rather, this project aims to show how nuanced and varied artistic reactions to adzan can be, particularly from women, whose voices are rarely if ever heard reciting the call to prayer.
Women from anywhere in the world, and of any background, could send Okka audio files of themselves reciting and/or remixing adzan. She played these audio recordings on the rooftop of 319 Scholes Gallery in Brooklyn, NYC, and performed adzan herself.
So They Say You Hate Poetry! Art Out Loud by Poet-Performers.
Producer, Writer, Performer of Indonesia's first livestreamed spoken word show, with co-performers Beau Sia, Mayda del Valle, and Gill Sotu live from LA. Supported by CultureHub and LoNyLa in NY, London, and LA. @atamerica, the US Embassy Cultural Center, Jakarta, June 2012 [not hearing-impaired accessible].
Selected collaborations, other:
Improvisational poetry/performance art/participatory community art with Krisna Murti’s installation “E-ART-hquake". Village residents were participating in the poetry performance portrayed in this video. (During stay as Teaching Artist-In-Residence for “Frames Per Poem: Poetry Writing, Performance, and Filmmaking” course, Village Video Festival, Jatiwangi Art Factory. Jatiwangi, Indonesia, 2012.)