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SAARC Culture Festival Photo Exhibition
Draws Visitors to Akademi

  • SNA Lawns pop up 169 images of fests, symposia from 1958

New Delhi, Sep 26: The SAARC nations have renewed their cultural ties at a just-concluded conclave of their culture ministers, but their shared history of artistic cooperation dates back to five decades — as portrayed eminently in a grand spectacle that has opened in the national capital.

The three-day photo exhibition which began at the Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) today essays select cultural events that the national-level institution has hosted since 1958 till recently — all of them exclusively featuring the countries of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that now total eight: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives, besides India.

SNA Secretary Helen Acharya pointed out that the 1952-founded Akademi has played a proactive role with regard to performing arts. “This has been particularly so in South Asia and the SAARC countries,” she added.

The 169-image exhibition, which has been organised as part of a SAARC Cultural Festival on Traditional Dances of South Asia being staged at the Akademi this week, seeks to recall the contributions of India in unifying the cultural spirit of the eight-nation grouping.

“We have chosen recap moments from eleven occasions — from 1958 (when SNA held a dance seminar in Delhi) to a welcome function hosted in 2003 in honour of Chandrika Bhandaranaike Kumaratunga when she was the President of Sri Lanka,” Ms Acharya noted.

Thus in photos of varying sizes — their tone ranging from sepia to black-and-white to multi-colour — the ongoing exhibition boasts of visuals from a series of momentous events, interactive sessions, symposia, festivals and VIP visits the SNA has organised over the past half a century.

Innovatively designed in zigzag block-like formations, the show on SNA lawns has experimented with sequencing the chosen images. Also, besides the SNA-organised events, it serves a visual feast with descriptive notes on the art forms and traditional festivals in the SAARC region that has won UNESCO’s recognition as intangible cultural heritage.

As for the SNA photos, for instance, one section profiles three events the

Akademi organised — in 1971, ’79 and ’84. Adjacent to it is a chapter that has images from just one event: a dance seminar in 1958.

Scenes from that symposium pop up contrasting moods in sepia. The seminars show scholars sitting in brooding rows and presenting papers. Next to it are vibrant stage shows of the pre-classical Yakshagana from Karnataka and the ritualistic Kandy dances of Sri Lanka presented as part of that 1958 event that shows Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the then prime minister, among the delegates.

On the other hand, the adjoining section is a visual potpourri of festivals such as Bhutanese dances from the Republic Day Folk Dance Festival at Delhi’s National Stadium, dancing masks from South Asian Festival of Culture and rabab recitals at Rabindra Bhavan in ’84.

Further afield are images from India International Puppet Festival and The SAARC Workshop on Documentation of Musical Tradition (both in ’90), SAARC South Asian Music and Dance Festival (’98) and the 1991 images of Sri then Lankan President Kumaratunga being welcomed (flanked by late minister Arjun Singh and lyricist Bhupen Hazarika) and her taking a peek at a set of mask dance mannequins.

The images of UNESCO-recognised art forms at the show are of ancient Sanskrit theatre Koodiyattam, Vedic chanting of Kerala, Ram Lila of upcountry India, Novruz of the South and West Asian belt, Ramman religious festival of Garhwal Himalayas, Chhau dance of eastern India, Kalbelia folk songs of Rajasthan, Mudiyettu traditional theatre of Kerala and Buddhist chanting of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir, besides Sankirtana from Manipur.

Sangeet Natak Akademi, Rabindra Bhawan, Ferozeshah Road, New Delhi

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