A standing ovation for renowned ghatam (clay pot) percussionist Vikku Vinayakram ended a series of public performances, including theatre, music and dance, that were part of a nine-week long festival of Indian culture organised by the Indian mission in Johannesburg.
Titled "Shared Histories, Celebrating India in South Africa", the festival featured contemporary and classical music, theatre, dance, crafts, foods, film and literature. Leading exponents in the various fields participated in a range of events at different venues at the same time during the annual Arts Alive Festival organised by the City of Johannesburg.
The series of public performances concluded Monday evening with Vinayakram's enthralling beats and rhythms.
"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, crafts persons, literary figures and dancers," said Navdeep Suri, Indian consul-general in Johannesburg, 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.
"As an inaugural event, especially with bringing events such as the masterful puppetry of Dadi Pudumjee to South Africa for the first time, we are very pleased with the responses we got, and it is bound to grow from here," Suri added.
"Particularly gratifying was the way in which local dancers, writers and craftsmen interacted with those we brought from India."
For dancers from the Jhankaar School of Dance in Lenasia, the huge Indian township south of here, it was a fitting way to celebrate their 21st anniversary performing together with celebrated dancer Gilles Chuyen in folk and contemporary items.
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 provocative themes such as "Sex and Sexuality in Indian and South African Writing".
At that session, Indian author Namita Gokhale recounted how her daughter's class teacher had persecuted her at one stage for her mother being a "pornographer", while the supposed erotic passages she read out were tame by Western standards.
"If Tarun (Tejpal, her co-panelist) writes about sex, he is a stud; if I write it, I'm a slut", Gokhale said of the discriminatory approach to erotic writing in India.
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.
A particular highlight was the performance by Dadi Pudumjee and his team of puppeteers of "Images of Truth", in which actors with masks and puppets portrayed the universal message of Mahatma Gandhi and his struggle against apartheid and communal violence.
The festival will continue until the end of October with an exhibition of Indian textiles, including centuries-old pieces, at Museum Africa where master weavers from India will also showcase their skills.