Mahatma Gandhi featured prominently in various ways in South Africa in 2007.
Sonia Gandhi, chief of India's ruling Congress party, delivered an inaugural lecture in his honour; President Thabo Mbeki attended the world premiere of Anil Kapoor's film Gandhi My Father and the "Shared Histories Festival" presented by the Indian missions in Johannesburg ended on a high note on the leader's birthday on October 2.
Sonia Gandhi said an increasing number of young people in India and elsewhere were turning to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi to find solutions to contemporary concerns through individual and collective action.
She was delivering the inaugural address at the University of Cape Town in a series planned by the Indian government at varsities across the world as part of the centenary celebrations of the Mahatma's Satyagraha principles, which he established during his tenure in South Africa at the turn of the 19th century.
Gandhi said the rapid economic growth that is transforming South Africa and India needs to continue in a manner that is both equitable and sustainable in keeping with the Mahatma's principles.
In July, South African President Thabo Mbeki watched the world premiere of the film Gandhi My Father, produced by veteran actor Anil Kapoor. "This film is a gift to us and to the people of the world," Mbeki said. "It is an extraordinary story told in such a sensitive way."
Mbeki said he was leaving immediately from the function to the Ivory Coast in West Africa, where he would be witness to the destruction of thousands of weapons that had been collected after he brokered peace between the warring factions there.
"I will tell them about the film that I saw here tonight and take the example of Gandhi to save us from the problems of today."
An enthralling performance by the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust led by master puppeteer Dadi Pudumjee; and the launch of a children's book on the life and times of the Mahatma marked Gandhi Jayanti in South Africa on October 2.
The play "Images of Truth" was performed at Constitutional Hill, once the Old Fort Jail where Gandhi and later Nelson Mandela were imprisoned during their fight for freedom in South Africa.
"Tonight has been a fitting tribute to both the role that South Africa played in the life of Mahatma Gandhi and also to the shared histories of our two countries," said Indian Consul-General Navdeep Suri.
Suri was commenting on the fact that as part of the two-month long "Shared Histories Festival" of Indian arts, culture, crafts and cuisine that had been presented here, "Images of Truth" had the last of a dozen performances across South Africa on Gandhi Jayanti.
A standing ovation for internationally renowned gattam (clay pot) percussionist Vikku Vinayakram ended a series of public performances that were part of a nine-week long festival of Indian culture organised by the Indian missions here.
Titled "Shared Histories, Celebrating India in South Africa", the festival featured contemporary and classical music, theatre, dance, crafts, foods, film and literature as some of the leading exponents in these areas participated in a range of events at different venues at the same time as part of the annual Arts Alive Festival organised by the City of Johannesburg.
"The objective was to celebrate India's 60th anniversary of Independence by providing a platform for dialogue and collaborative work between eminent Indian and South African musicians, craftspersons, literary figures and dancers," said Suri, who initiated the concept and then got Sanjoy Roy of Teamwork Films in New Delhi to coordinate it.
Roy said the festival had been so well received that it would certainly be back next year, with different elements included.
The festival included "Words on Water", where writers from the two countries shared ideas on contemporary writing in India and Indian writing in English for a South African audience, including such provocative themes as "Sex and Sexuality in Indian and South African Writing".
Other elements of the Festival included the "Indian Spice Trail", highlighting the cuisine from different regions of India; a retrospective of films featuring Sharmila Tagore, including personal visits by her in Durban and Johannesburg; and music performances by celebrated music group Mrigya.