“Many of us have had international recognition. But right now, we are at the brink of losing our artforms to poverty” said Ishamuddin Khan in an article published by CNN in 2020. During an interview for the DEF Dialogue series, Khan tells us that the situation of street performers continues to remain bleak and also reveals historic, parliamentary decisions that have contributed to such conditions.
For generations, Indian peripatetics have enthralled their viewers by walking on tightropes, materialising pigeons out of cane baskets and making bears stand on their hind legs. There are seven performing tribes in India – jugglers, acrobats, magicians, snake charmers, animal trainers, impersonators and street singers – and all are similarly disenfranchised. These tribes pass down the knowledge of their art to their successors who, the former hope, will carry it forward.