The importance of queer spaces

The last Sunday of 2018 saw the coming together of queer icons Bhoomi Harendran, Gaapink, and Alok Vaid-Menon at Music Matters, hosted by Elsz.

The event was organised by Elsz, who is a New York-based artist best known for her soulful sounds and crazy beats.
The night proved to be a great success. The artists performed for a gathering of a small but appreciative audience, all there to support the right to be heard.

Speaking about what she hoped to achieve by organising this event, Elsz said: “What I really wanted to do was create a safe space where voices of a minority could be heard.”

Elsz is currently on tour with Alok and will be in India starting 10 January leading up to the 19th, where she will be performing and also taking part in an artist residency.

She took an interest in putting together a safe space for the LGBTIQ community, following her previous involvement with Ctrl Alt Shift – an event previously held to serve a similar purpose.

Speaking about her involvement with Ctrl Alt Shift in 2017, Elsz said: “Last year was great, there was a fantastic turnout and people were given a great platform to be themselves, and this time around there were so many time constraints and limitations, but I still wanted to do something no matter how small; somewhat of an homage to last year’s success.”
She also added: “There’s not a lot of spaces on the island where minorities can be themselves; many performance spaces do not feel safe and are often intimidating, and I think our event today felt safe, intimate, and allowed us to be vulnerable before people who are accepting and kind.”

The event not only provided a safe space for people of the community to showcase their talents, which they did in heaps, in addition to the headliners which included a fantastically haunting musical set by Gaapink, an electrifying dance number by Bhoomi, Alok’s poetry, and a performance by Elsz herself, the floor was open to those who are fighting for a cause.
Amongst those who spoke, including Bhoomi about the National Transgender Network and Sriyal Nilanka about living with HIV, there was Angelica Chandrasekaran who gave an impassioned speech about her cause – families of the disappeared.

A part of the proceeds from the event will be given to the families of the disappeared; those who have lost loved ones due to floods, or those whose loved ones went missing during the war.

Angelica spoke of the work that they do in the North especially, in areas like Kilinochchi, where they have partnered with religious institutions and religious leaders to help provide some relief for these aggrieved families who are living in constant distress and sorrow.

So far, there is no concrete organisation working towards the betterment of these communities, it is only individuals doing what they can.

There is an attempt to raise sufficient funds to buy school supplies like shoes and bags for 50 children affected by floods. If you wish to donate, call 077 387 4160 (Ruki).

Furthermore, the Suyam Centre for Women’s Empowerment is an organisation that has been working in the North to support women and help them become financially stable in affected areas.
For more information, call 077 735 7494 (Director of the Organisation Fr. Ravichandran).

By Dimithri Wijesinghe