This August, the University Scholars Programme (USP) opens its doors to the extremely talented Ms Gitanjali Kolanad, who has been recruited as the writer-in-residence under the 2016 Singapore Creative Writing Residency Programme jointly organised by The Arts House and the USP. Joining the USP community, Gitanjali will reside at Cinnamon College (USP) for six months, from August 2016 to January 2017.

Gitanjali Kolanad was involved in the practice, performance and teaching of bharata natyam for close to forty years. She performed in major cities in Europe, America and India, including London, New York, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Toronto, Tokyo, New Delhi, Bombay and Madras. Her traditional performances were praised by critics, while her contemporary choreographic work won new audiences for bharata natyam.

Her work was often multidisciplinary, arising out of collaborations with artists from other disciplines: director Phillip Zarrilli, video/installation artist Ray Langenbach, poet Judith Kroll, violinist Parmela Attariwala, to name a few. Her performances incorporated folk and ritual forms of dance, theatre and martial art forms from South India.

Gitanjali's short story, The American Girl, won second prize in the 2008 CBC Literary Awards, and forms part of a collection published in January 2011 by Penguin India. Her previous book, Culture Shock: India, published by Marshall Cavendish, is now into its third edition, and has been translated into Korean. She has written numerous articles on aspects of Indian dance for well-known Indian publications, such as India Magazine and Sruti.

She also co-founded IMPACT - Indian Martial and Performance Arts Collective of Toronto, which teaches the Indian martial art form of kalaripayat to at-risk youth. She is currently developing a performing arts programme at Shiv Nadar University.

As the USP writer-in-residence for this semester, Gitanjali will run a series of writing workshops – Writing That Moves Us – where the focus is on the process of writing. The series will explore states of flow leading to ‘aha’ moments, where the words we write surprise us. There is no restriction on genre. As a participant, you can try your hand at poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir. You will not be sitting down and listening in this class. Instead, you will be combining reading, focused discussion and writing with a physical practice. Her workshop is scheduled for every Tuesday, from 16 August, 6 – 8 pm at the USP Chatterbox.

Gitanjali will also lead an Indian martial art workshop – Kalaripayat. Kalaripayat, the martial art form from Kerala, is known for dance-like fighting sequences that combine fluid grace and power. Kalari trains the practitioner in focus and concentration along with strength and flexibility. The ultimate goal of practice is to refine the process of awareness, bringing a state of heightened perception “when the body becomes all eyes”. Gitanjali, who has been practising kalari for thirty years, will teach the basics of the form. If you are all up for some action, do join her workshop every Thursday, from 25 August, 5.30pm – 7.30pm at Chua Thian Poh Hall, USP.

She has expressed her excitement to interact, and share her love for writing and Indian martial art with the USP community. If you see her around, be sure to stop and say hello!

You may also catch Gitanjali at the World Lit session on 8 September, 7.30pm at The Arts House. She will read from her published works and first novel which explores the world of hereditary dancers in the 1920s. This session is organised by The Arts House and moderated by poet Cyril Wong. Free admission with registration. For more details, click the poster below.

WL Gitanjali eDM

kalaripayat martial art

writer in residence