We Are Not Your Monkeys is an energycharged protest song against the Hindu caste hierarchy, written by the Dalit activists Daya Pawar and Sambhaji Bhagat in cooperation with the film-maker Anand Patwardhan. In the video, Bhagat is shown performing the song in a village square, accompanied by choir and percussion, with great intensity. The lyrics deconstruct Ramayana, one of the most important Hindu epics, from the perspective of the Dalits: a musical outcry against systematic suppression and contempt for human rights, against rulers who exercise control over the writing of history and depict the Dalits as demons or untouchables. ‘But we were the aborigines of this land, listen to our story’, sings Bhagat, who also attacks the patriarchy. The sharp-tongued critique is directed against the Manusmriti, an ancient Hindu legal text which prohibitively restricts the rights of women. The documentation of the performance is interspersed with racist depictions showing Dalits as apes. Such images are included not simply to reproduce their abhorrent discrimination but to tear them to shreds in verses of the song.
Work in the exhibition: We Are Not Your Monkeys (1996), video installation, 5' 19". Courtesy of the artist