The villagers in rural Andhra are natural artistes, and when RDT began its interactions in Ananthapuram,they found settlements whose inhabitants expressed themselves richly through song and dance. This was the foundationof RDT’s Cultural Sector.
Special Cultural Schools
Training Children with Disabilities
Awareness through Cultural Campaigns
Children, including those with disabilities, should be able to access training in quality cultural pursuits that will nurture their personality and leadership skills.
Parents and communities should be sensitised to encourage their children to get involved in cultural training/participation in cultural performances.
Children with intrinsic cultural talent should be able to access the opportunity to pursue higher cultural studies and a professional career in arts.
Communities’ folk art forms will be preserved and promoted as a valuable cultural heritage – E.g. Kolattam, Chekkabhajana, Puppetry,Urumulu, Thappeta, Keelugurralu, Maragaallu, etc.
Increase community awareness about critical social issues like early marriages, dowry, violence against women, health issues, etc., to bring about a positive change in their mind-sets.
Seeing that they found it easier and more natural to express themselves through song and dance, rather than by holding conversations about their lives, cultural performances served as RDTs ice-breakers in its early interactions with the rural poor. RDT began its work in the Culture Sector starting with groups of youngsters in 1978. The hope was to set children and youth off on a path of confident self-expression in order for a confident adulthood, unlike that of their elders. Performance was promoted as a tool for personal development and social upliftment. RDT and these youngsters collaborated in putting together songs set to social themes – servitude, bonded labour and hard lives. Working with young boys and men to begin with, women were drawn into the performances later on. Village elders were open to song and dance, and didn't resist RDT's workers interacting with their people to discuss their art forms.
This way, the early Sanghams (collectives) were formed to write and perform songs about social uplift. Using existing art forms, RDT workers helped villagers with lyrics and themes of society's ills and set them in familiar contexts. These performances at the village level opened communities' thinking to the constraints they were bound by, and encouraged them to think of positive solutions out of them. It dawned on villagers gradually that cultural traditions were a tool by which to engage with a broader audience and highlight the need for societal change. The prominent ones were Burrakatha- an oral story-telling form using poetry, drums and solo drama, and Harikatha– dramatic and musical telling of tales of Gods.
By 1985, RDT's cultural sector was organising inter-area competitions in various categories like solo song/dance and group song/dance and drama - the judges were artistes from professional troupes from nearby towns. Also as performances became more evolved, instrumentation went from the local drums Dappu, to Tablas to Harmonium- for which RDT trained select villagers, then keyboards and electronic instruments were introduced. Each year, certain social issues were addressed in these performances. In 2014, the focus was on migration, violence against women and girls, early marriages, girl's education, dowry, ecology, continuation of untouchability in certain settlements, HIV and AIDS, and so on.
The Cultural Rendezvous for a Better Tomorrow
With enthusiastic support from the villagers the cultural sector has grown from strength to strength in the last 3 decades. ‘Rural children and youth will confront discrimination and exclusion, enhance their self-value and their status in society and gain cohesion, while improving their social and educational development.’