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India in the peaches' cultural quilt

The famous Atlanta Botanical Gardens celebrated its 13th annual celebration of Asian Cultures , writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: Jul 13, 2006 15:24 IST

Atlanta's cultural canvass is a colourful montage comprising the conflux of many individual achromatic strains. Of these, the Asian contribution is sizeable (they account for nearly four per cent of the metro area's population).

In a laudable drive to acknowledge the Asian community's presence in Georgia, the famous Atlanta Botanical Gardens off Piedmont Avenue celebrated its 13th annual celebration of Asian Cultures in Atlanta festival this weekend.

This festival has found more than niche acceptance and is known as being one amongst the most spirited and multifarious outdoor festivals the city hosts and flaunts.

Blending perfectly with the warmer spring-time climes, this two-day weekend celebration (Saturday, July 8th - 9th, 2006) is typically a fun-filled family affair laced with arts & crafts bazaars, music and dance performances, several traditional games & displays and fashion shows comprising native costumes.

The Gardens saw the confluence of nearly 900 volunteer participants, representing 12 Asian countries this year.

For avid foodies too, it featured cuisine from most parts of Asia including Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and India. For those sampling Indian cuisine for the first time, the gig presented an excellent window of opportunity.

The Asian Cultural Experience saw its genesis when in 1993, Atlanta architect Tony Smith, along with Asian American Victor Lui initiated the clique chapter with the Atlanta Botanical Garden to give a fillip to and disseminate the complex texture of the Asian American heritage among Atlantans.

As a result, Americans of Asian descent, including Indian Americans, gradually began display of their art and heritage amid their counterparts. Managed mostly by a focused group of volunteers, the show has gone on from success to success since its inception.

Sponsored by local corporate biggies as GE Energy, Haven Trust Bank, Celebrate Diversity Though The Arts, The Home Depot, Nintendo, Dr Victor Lui, Starbucks and Georgia Asian Times, this cultural chapter celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2003, a testimony to its popularity and reach, and is back now for another popular run.

In keeping with its growth over the years, this annual event has since expanded its scope manifold.

Participants from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan Vietnam and India now grace the weekend family party regularly.

Since the festival works on a voluntary participation module, it has application forms for all envisaged events and activities such as the Civic Group Application, the Craft Vendor Application, the Exhibition Application, the Exhibition Application, the Performance Application, the Food Vendor Application and the Volunteer Application to name some.

For this year's festival, the 'Team Captains from India' were Narendran Vellaisamy and Nash Rehmann. Vellaisamy's 'Gallery & Demonstrations-Indian Artifacts' was a significant attraction at the exhibition hall.

The mid-afternoon Bharatha Natyam classical Indian dance performances by the Kalaiuani Dance Academy were also hailed well by audiences. While games and exhibitions remain important episodes of the event, the Performance Celebration, featuring music and dance pageants from the 12 nations, at 6 pm on Saturday, July 8, on the Great Lawn was the major draw this year.

During the festival, Atlanta's Asian-American communities came together to meet and experience each other's rare cultural character beginning on Saturday.

Revues comprising fashion shows, exhibits of rare cultural artifacts, and unique interpretations including calligraphy, wood crafts, pottery and origami, the Japanese paper-folding technique, oriental games such as Sungka (from Philippines) and Mah Jongg (from China) had visitors riveted.

Admission rate to the event, at $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and $7 for students and free for children less than 3 years of age and Garden members was modest. It was propitious to see the tremendous audience participation of Indians for this year's festival.

Otherwise known for sticking to their chosen closeted alcoves, members of the Diaspora turned out in huge groups to mark the presence of India in the motley setting of "Atlanta Quilt", as festival owners call this kaleidoscopic mélange. In doing so, they catapulted their native legacy to definitive cultural validation among peers.