Ping Chong and Company has been involved in the production of various art performances that have been integral in giving details of the different ethnic and culture identities. Through these productions, it has been possible to address various issues affecting the society. Theatre industry is one of the avenues that has been utilized when it comes to eradicating the vice of racial discrimination in the country. In the Ping Chong and Company, there has been a continuing series of interviews that focus on examining various issues on the culture and identity of people who are considered to be outsiders when it comes to their mainstream community. However, some works are more relevant to the current problems facing the society as compared to others. ‘Deshima’ and ‘Beyond Sacred’ are two of the works produced by Ping Chong and Company. It can, therefore, be contended that Ping Chong performance, ‘Deshima’ did greater performance than ‘Beyond Sacred’ as far as the application of the movements and the use of dramatic costumes are concerned.
Deshima performance is all about a prismatic exploration of East-West relations, which starts by the arrival of Dutch merchants in Japan during 16th century and continues to highlight Japanese economic supremacy in late 1980s. This implies that Deshima is the performance that explores various historical events that defined the relationship between the East and West. On another hand, Beyond Sacred is the performance by Ping Chong which involves the interviewing of the five participants from various backgrounds as far as Muslim religion is concerned. The participants narrate and share their experiences coming into post-9/11 terror attacks in United States.
Ping Chong performance “Deshima”.
In this work, the Ping Chong performance is exploring the existing relationship between the East and the West. In the performance, Ping Chong embarked on creating each staging element that references the historical events that had significance to the subject matter. Ping Chong also used the archival documents identified as “Cultures in Collision” to interwoven cultural and historical happenings in the Deshima performance (Gounaridou 129). Various historical events, as well as cultural accounts in this works, are transformed into an enthralling tapestry history which is encompassed by the East and west associations that have since defined the present state of these two global regions. The initial piece of Deshima was produced in Holland in the 1990s. Through this piece of performance, Ping Chong is able to give fine details on the cultural relationships Japan and the West. This is achieved through an emphasis placed on the Japanese colonialism as well as Western colonialism. The performance also seeks to explore the clash of various cultures in that surrounded Japan, especially from the fifteenth to the twentieth century.
In the Deshima performance, it is also highlighted how the Korea relates to the United States through Japan. From the narratives, it is revealed that Japan’s colonization of the Korea elicited hatred between the two countries. However, from Korea’s point of view, both Japan and the West are the same since their main intentions are to inflict pain and suffering on the Korean people (Gounaridou 131). For instance, in 1895, Japanese assassinated Queen Min which highlights the frosty relationship between Korea and Japan. The close association of the Japan and United States makes Korea develop animosity towards the United States. All these details are captured in the narration and dancing performances which are heavily featured in the Deshima performance. This implies that Ping Chong performance digs deeper to draw out historical and cultural accounts when it comes to addressing issues that currently affect the society. This gives Deshima an upper hand over the approach used by the Ping Chong production on the “Beyond Sacred”.
Furthermore, the costumes used in Deshima are illustrative and depict a deeper meaning of the culture and historical accounts that are still relevant in the contemporary society. The performance has been strategically produced by Ping Chong to traverse and capture historical events and cultural collisions of the last four centuries. It focusses on highlighting the strained relationships between the East and the West. From this works, it is apparent that Deshima was first performed at Dutch as depicted by the trading ships from Dutch which docking at the seashore of Japan (Gussow 2).Through this performance, Ping Chong is able to bring out the theme of Trade, which is not highlighted in the Sacred Beyond, which is also another piece of performance by Ping Chong and Company. From this theme of Trade, Ping Chong is trying to portray Japanese as the topmost country, when it comes to its economic supremacy. There is also the use of ‘sunflower’ ass part of costume design. This gives Deshima a higher notch as far as art performance is concerned. The sunflower in this context can be used to signify the increasing supremacy of the Japan due to its close ties with the West.
Deshima performance can also be viewed as an opportunity that facilitates deeper exploration of the ancestral roots as well as addressing the trading routes that currently exist between the East and the West. It is apparent that these two global regions have been embroiled in a tussle of supremacy battles in terms of their trading superiority. This has led to animosity and various prejudices labeled against Japanese immigrants in United States Gussow 2). This implies that the works of Deshima are integral in trying to locate the core roots of various racial and segregation problems that are blighting the current American community. The Deshima performance also gives a well-illustrated dramatization of the impacts between dissimilar cultures. It can, therefore, be asserted the Deshima is giving the greater account of racial and cultural struggles affecting America as compared to Beyond Sacred, which is also another production by Ping Chong.
The Deshima performance also plays an integral when it comes to highlighting the sufferings or struggles that Japanese-Americans endure during the World War Two. From the art performance, it is demonstrated how the Japanese American family is struggling to access basic needs such as food (Gussow 3). Through dramatization, a Japanese American mother is portrayed to be frustrated with the ongoing struggles that have crippled her family. To highlight the intensity of her frustrations after significantly witnessing a lower for the oriental dinner set she adored much, she opts to smash the china plates. This horrifies the antique dealer, who was watching the woman helplessly as she crashes the China plates. From this scene in the deshima dramatization, it can be claimed that the Japanese immigrants in the United States endured a tough economic lifestyle. They were mistreated by the merchants who did not want to purchase their goods at the fair prices.
From the Deshima performance, Ping Chong is drawing the real life examples from the Japanese immigrants to demonstrate the existence of the racial problem in the United States. During the dramatization session, there is significant movement on the stage as compared to Beyond Sacred, which involves a group of participants who are just seated as the performance progresses. This makes the Deshima be a greater piece of art than Beyond Scared when it comes to a vivid explanation of the issues that are affecting the American society (Gussow 3). As far as art performance is concerned, movements on the stage play an integral in delivering the intended message to the targeted audience. Through the movement, the participants are able to utilize their verbal and non-verbal techniques to demonstrate and dramatize the intended message. This is the feature that is widely used in Deshima performs thus giving it an edge over of the Beyond Sacred where the participants remain seated as they narrate their experiences to the audience.
Analysis of Beyond Sacred Performance
Ping Chong and Company was systematic in choosing the participants to take part in the theater performance of Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity. The series of the interviews done by the Ping Chong and Company, on their way to the production of the Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity involved the choosing of participants from different Muslim identities. For instance, amongst the participants chosen, some of them were born as Muslims whereas others converted into Muslim. Furthermore, there is also some partakers of the interviews who had opted to leave the Muslim faith altogether (Ping Chong and Company 2). By taking the roles of the performers in the interviews, the participants were fully utilized to address various historical, personal as well as political issues with the use of various narratives performed.
Ferdous Dehqan is one of the participants. From his narration, is revealed that he was inundated with fear during his childhood as the incident of September 11, 2011, happened. Dehqan is four years old, staying with parents in Kabul, Afghanistan. From Dehqan’s narration, it is pointed out that Muslims, from various parts of the world are facing constant screening and searches, which seems to be affecting their social and psychological well-being. He recalled that while crossing the streets in the city of Kabul by his mother, he feared that they will be stopped and be questioned by the soldiers and other security personnel from various security agents who had flocked Afghanistan to quell Taliban, who are purported to have been part of the terrorists who bombed Pentagon and Washington DC (Collins-Hughes 3). From the narration, it is also apparent that there was excessive use of force when dealing with suspected terrorists. Dehqan was worried that in case they were stopped while crossing the streets, his mother was likely to be kicked or hit.
During the production of the Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity, Dehqan is 19 years old and together with other participants, he is ready to share the experiences and encounters he has undergone in America after the 9/11 terror attacks. Dehqan is of the opinion that Muslim is not a monolithic culture, thus appealing to the community to change its negative perception over the Islam and Muslim culture (Collins-Hughes 3). Amir Khafagy is also another participant whose views are also essential in alleviating the negativities surrounding Muslim culture. He is 24 years old and he is a cross-racial. His father is an Egyptian whereas his mother is from Puerto Rico. This prompts him to call himself “Arab-Rican”. This highlights the rich diversity that characterizes New York City. It implies that the New York City is made up of people from diverse backgrounds. These people can only fell valued and accommodated if they are given a chance to embrace their ethnicity and culture, without intimidation or alienation. Apparently, this is what Ping Chong and company has been forefront when it comes to pushing for an achievement of this policy.
Maha Syed is 29 years old and whose country of birth is Kuwait alleges that he is human rights activist. She singles out some key elements that she considers them to be crucial when it comes to inspiring her. These elements include her culture, and religion as well as feminism. Apparently, these elements have a significant influence in Maha’s life (Collins-Hughes 4). By bringing such a figure in its interviews and art performance, it is apparent that Ping Chong and Company was dedicated to pushing for a greater awareness of the need for adopting and embracing diversity in the community. It is only through such initiatives of hearing views from different people in the community that racial problems and other forms of discrimination in the community can be eradicated.
Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani, who reveals that she is 26 years old and a native of Long Island, is a convert. Tiffany’s family is a mixture of Christian and Muslim culture. Initially, she used to dress “…like a Goth punk” (Collins-Hughes 4) which was facilitated by her efforts of watching Youtube clips on how to tie it: however, after becoming a Muslim, she is happy wearing a hijab. Tiffany’s family is an emblem of diversity in the United States. She has experienced both Christian and Muslim cultures, which gives her an edge when it comes to explaining the requirements of the two religious cultures. This implies that her narration is important in fostering the element of unity and togetherness in the community. This can be vital in pushing for the eradication of religious intolerance that is on rising.
Kadin Herring, who is 23 years was formerly a Muslim but has since ceased to practice the faith. However, he still respects the Islam since it had a greater influence in his life when growing up. He still observes some of the practices he was taught such as the taboo of eating a pork (Collins-Hughes 4). Kadin is an example of how religious tolerance and accommodation is supposed to be in the society. From Kadin’s point of view, it is essential to overlook religious rivalry and animosity that exists between Muslims and other religions and instead focus on the good that comes from various religions.
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