Calling it a crowning moment of her inspiring career, Manjamma Jogati hoped her Padma Shri would encourage people to love folk art and respect the transgender community.
The 64-year-old, who became the first transwoman to head the Karnataka Janapada Academy in 2019, is among the five from Karnataka set to receive Padma awards this year. Beneath Manjamma’s rise to fame lies a dark, disturbing story. Recollecting her journey, she was choked with emotion as she thanked many for their unceasing support.
“I dedicate this award to my guru Kalavva Jogati. If he was alive, he would have been immensely proud to see my achievements. I thank my parents who always prayed for my well-being. This award is to people of Karnataka who gave me love whenever I performed,” she tells Showtime.
Manjamma, born as Manjunath Shetty, hails from Ballari. Shunned by the family for wanting to be identified as a woman, Manjamma not only survived a suicide attempt but was ridiculed before Jogati Nritya became her lifeline.
“To be honest, I didn’t learn the dance because I loved it,” she says about the folk art performed by a group of transwomen, who are called Jogappas. “I danced to fight hunger and make a living out of it. If I had chosen to beg on the streets or be a sex worker, I wouldn’t have been alive today. Jogati Nritya has taken me this far and I want to give back to the art and our community,” she says.
The winner of the Karnataka Janapada Academy and Kannada Rajyotsava awards, Manjamma wants folk art to be an important feature in today’s curriculum.
“Our academy conducts training programmes in schools and colleges in various districts. My main goal is to preserve Karnataka’s folklore. For that to happen, the government has to increase its financial support to the Academy and educational institutions must hire more folk arts teachers,” feels Manjamma.