International stars from India’s Assam, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh regions will showcase dance, puppetry, intricate paper-cut artistry and folk art at the 15th Auckland Diwali Festival next month. The 2016 Auckland Diwali Festival takes place at Aotea Square and Queen Street from midday to 9pm on Saturday, 15 and Sunday 16, October.
The free, family-friendly festival showcases and celebrates traditional and contemporary Indian culture, including dance and music, puppetry and street theatre, food, fashion, art and craft, wrapping up with a bang on Sunday night with the Barfoot & Thompson Fireworks Finale.
Assamese film actress, model and dancer Meghranjani will lead a group of Kathak dancers, including her dancer and choreographer mother Marami Medhi, on the main stage. The group performs to music by Meghranjani’s composer father, Joy Prakash Medhi. The family run a renowed Kathak dance institute in Guwahati.
Kathak is one of India’s 10 major classical dance forms. Dancers traditionally wear heavy bells strapped around their ankles, as they depict stories through arm gestures, upper body movement, facial expressions, bends and turns.
At the Barfoot & Thompson Hub on Queen Street, puppet master Vinod Bhatt will lead his troupe of Jaipur-based Rajasthani puppeteers, presenting a colourful, lively and laugh-out-loud funny traditional art form that dates back more than 1000 years.
Traditionally puppeteers from the nomadic Bhatt community went from village to village presenting popular stories from the sacred epic poems the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
In recent years, the puppeteers have been working with social agencies to help educate people about social issues such as AIDS, family planning, and women’s rights. Two very different visual artists will be demonstrating and exhibiting their art at the festival.
Venkat Shyam is from the Gond tribe of Madhya Pradesh in central India, known for their skill in mural painting, using natural colours derived from charcoal, soil, plants and cow dung to depict celebrations and man’s relationship with nature. Venkat, who exhibits internationally, has developed his own style of contemporary Gond art, still drawing from Gond myth, oral history and nature, but using bright acrylic colours on canvas and paper, mixed media and film animation, and including contemporary events as subject matter.
Paper cut artist Parth Kothekar, from Gujarat’s largest city Ahmedabad, carves delicate artworks, each made with a pencil, a sheet of paper and a sharp blade. Intricate pieces depict feathers, women’s flowing dresses and hair, bicycles, ferns and insect wings.
Asia New Zealand Foundation Executive Director Simon Draper says the Foundation is delighted to be able to help New Zealand audiences experience some of the diversity of India by hosting an exciting range of artists and performers from four regions of the country.
“It’s part of the wider work the Asia New Zealand Foundation does in increasing New Zealanders’ understanding of Indian cultures. Our culture programme also provides residencies for New Zealand artists in Asia and supports cultural projects with Indian elements here in New Zealand.”
Brett O’Riley, Chief Executive of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) says: “Auckland Diwali Festival has become a firm favourite amongst Aucklanders and visitors, with increasing numbers of people of all backgrounds flocking to this celebration of Indian culture every year.
“I love seeing large New Zealand organisations, including our commercial partners, get more involved in the performance programme – last year we had the NZ Police Bhangra in Blue team, and this year I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the ASB staff team perform on the main stage.”
The international artistes headline a programme which also features more than 800 local performers, including regular festival favourites The Garagewalas, DJ Dave and the hotly contested Radio Tarana Bollywood Dance Competition.
The Auckland Diwali Festival is presented by ATEED and the Asia New Zealand Foundation. After the Auckland Diwali Festival, the Asia New Zealand Foundation will take the performers and artists to schools and museums in other parts of New Zealand, before they join Wellington Diwali celebrations.
The full 2016 Auckland Diwali Festival programme will be available on aucklandnz.com/diwali closer to the date, and will also be available on the new Auckland Events Guide app.