It has been in my heart since I was in my mother’s womb.
When I say that sentence, I really mean it. When my mom was pregnant, she loved to watch Ramayana series which was aired in television in the early 90s. When I was born, it seemed that she had no other interest but giving me last name Shinta, just like the name of the character in the Ramayana story. Sometimes I questioned this to my self why I loved Bollywood so much, and stop asking when I found out about the story behind my last name.
Then, it was in the early 2018 when I met a filmmaker activist Surya Shankar in Bali Indigenous Film Festival that we conducted in Ubud. He was not just an activist, but he has been the defender for indigenous people rights in Odisha, India for over fifteen years. I was so impressed to watch his presentation and video showcasing as I could relate into the struggles of indigenous people when their land was taken by corporation and their people were sent to jail by police. It did not take long time for me to be friend with Surya and also Dinja, an indigenous woman leader from Odisha who is the first woman to have passport in her community. I really have big respect to these brave people. Our friendship and solidarity got stronger when Surya and team came to Kalimantan in August 2018 for Kalimantan Indigenous Film Festival and spent over two weeks to join us visiting villages in Central and West Kalimantan. We were amazed to find there are similar words in our languages, like ‘anggur’ for grape and ‘suami istri’ for husband-wife. Through their visit, I also learned more about things that I never watch in Bollywood movies.
I remember five years ago there was a documentary which really touched me, entitled Untouchable: Children of God. This film was one of few films that moved me to be brave to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Five years later, through my friendship with indigenous activists from Odisha, I get deeper understanding of this word untouchable. The struggles of indigenous people against capitalism and supremacy power created by caste in society are so real. Surya’s film entitled Niyamgiri was one of the most powerful film to show what has been really happening to the communities. We all know how hard and challenging it is to make the indigenous voices being heard. But, we can be echo for each other.
This February, Video Republic which is organized by Surya and team will be conducting Bhubaneswar indigenous film festival. Thank God for this precious friendship, we are so honored to be invited to the festival. This trip will be my next tour. While the title of my tour is Stories That Matter, it does not simply mean bringing about Dayak and Kalimantan issues to different audiences in other countries. This is a journey where every indigenous person can find his place and speak his voice, because their stories matter. I would love to create a beautiful moment with indigenous communities in Odisha, knowing that we do not only experience the same pain but also share the same strength.
Please check this link to learn more about this indigenous film festival in Odisha!