Intern 2022: Durga Bishwokarma

Performance artist Durga Bishwokarma is the first ever intern at Østfold International Teater.

The internship has been established by Viken County Municipality to strengthen the opportunities for young artists and talents in the culture sector starting their career. Durga has lived in Fredrikstad since 2015 and completed her MA in performance at the Norwegian Theatre Academy in 2020. She was born in Nepal, where she has worked for eight years in film, radio and different theatre companies.

Nepal’s first MA in theatre

– I am actually the first person in Nepal with a master’s degree in contemporary theatre. In my home country the form of expression is still quite traditional and more focused on social awareness than modern experimental works, says Durga.

She herself works in a wide range of techniques:

– I am an interdisciplinary artist. My practice is based on Boal’s Forum Theatre (Theatre of the Oppressed) and social activist works. At the moment I would say it’s about movement, social theatre, storytelling, masks, performance art, dance, poetry, history writing and reading practice. In my master’s research I am focusing in particular on participatory theatre and how crossing cultures, boundaries and social similarities can be woven into narrative works – an extension of the traditional definition of storytelling.

Hidden stories

– In your porfolio, you describe your interest in working with «strangers, children and marginalized groups», can you elaborate on this?

– It could mean creating unexpected meeting points between the audience and artists and / or developing participatory theatre works, or working with children in a dance / movement workshop about body shaming, or addressing cross-cultural identity problems through teaching. I work on creating works of art for and with socially excluded groups, cultures and identities. In my work, I constantly question what is considered “dirty” and “pure” in the culture I belong to, why e.g. caste systems and discrimination exist. I am concerned about finding ways to bring hidden stories to the public .Stories that are unpleasant, dark and difficult to share; stories of discrimination of caste, race, identity and physical appearance. How and in what forms these stories find voices in contemporary theatre and performance art is central to me.

Setting a light to the unknown

– What does the internship mean to you?

The internship at ØIT will be my pilot project, a way to stay in flight after my MA. It is of great importance that the theatre has its international approach and that this is an international internship. Artistically, my home is here in Norway. But I need to address themes from Nepal. Southeast Asia has conservative cultural norms, such as the caste system. As a Dalit artist, I myself belong to a marginalized group. It takes a lot of energy because I want to be free, a free soul and a free artist, but it is hard to witness so many types of discrimination every day, so I can’t neglect it. Therefore you will find sorrow and at the same time dark touches of humour in my artworks. It can be difficult, but it is necessary to share, says Durga:

– I am an artist, not a politician. Artists should not take on the full responsibility to change the world, but we can set a light to the unknown and display it to the world. That’s what I would like to express.