The Dark Art of Poverty

by Caitie / Jun 01, 2009 / 1 comments

The Dark Art of Poverty


Desert Merasi

Desert Merasi


Poverty is a dehumanizing state. It is not simply the lack of money, but the total absence of choice, opportunity and hope. The shadowy reality of poverty is that it assigns people negative value; individuals are defined exclusively by their deficits.

On the surface, the Merasi (musicians) live in expansive poverty. They are born without birth certificates, prohibited from government representation and
education, and forbidden to drink from the same water sources as most animals.


Merasi School - performance


Valuing a community based on what they are not is a fundamentally disrespectful approach to change. Human substance does not reside in what we are not, but in what we are. And the Merasi are many, many things.

The Merasi are a community of musicians who narrate the folk culture of their Indian desert landscape in ancient song systems. They stir chai (tea), lay bricks, rock babies, honk horns, inhale and exhale in rhythm. The air around them is charged with tone and sequence. Music is the beginning, middle and end, and as the global hand of modernization sweeps across India, that music is on the cusp of extinction.


Merasi School - dance


The Merasi School, with our parent non-profit, Folk Arts Rajasthan, exists solely to support community‐driven change. While the world calls them ‘Manganiyar,’ meaning beggar, the Merasi define themselves by their incredible artistic prosperity rather than their crippling social poverty. The Merasi identified education as the tool necessary to preserve their cultural legacy and grow their communal identity out into the fierce and often inhospitable world.


Merasi School - Study


Through daily academic and music classes, The Merasi School supports the
development of creative minds, hearts and hands capable of compassionate,
sustainable social transformation. There is no poverty at The Merasi School, only the loud, relentless rhythm of possibility.





Caitie Whelan is the India Editor for Wandering Educators


Photos courtesy and copyright of The Merasi School.

Comments (1)

  • La Sevillana

    14 years 10 months ago

    What an amazing story these people have. Seeing the photo of the children dancing will be the high point of my day. They look so happy. Thanks for sharing, Caitie!

    Traci Abraham holds an M.D. from the University of Connecticut in Cultural Anthropology. She is currently completing fieldwork in Andalucía, Spain, regarding the maternal health of Moroccan immigrants.    

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