Festival Africa creates hues of wilderness in capital

New Delhi, May 19 (Calcutta Tube) Lion men, Islamic musicians and raucous dancers from the heart of Africa clad in their traditional attires stirred up images of African turf wars, chivalry, wilderness and wedding revelry on stage at the inauguration of a three-day Africa Festival.

The festival, that opened at the Kamani theatre here Tuesday, is being hosted by the Indian Council For Cultural Relations (ICCR). It features National Ballet Troupes from five countries – South Africa, Rwanda, Tunisia, Malawi and Nigeria.

The five countries represent the four corners of south, east, west and central Africa with their distinctive cultures, dance, music, lifestyles and cross-cultural assimilation.

The festival is in consonance with India’s policy of strengthening its multilateral ties with Africa.

On the sidelines of an India-Africa summit in New Delhi in April 2008, ICCR organised a two-day cultural event, ‘Tribute to Africa’ with performers from 12 countries.

‘Festival Africa is a continuation of the cultural dialogue that began in 2008. Dance and music have a universal appeal. At ICCR, our mandate is to develop cultural relations around Africa and we need much more interaction with the 53 countries in Africa. In this world where lives are full of tension and polarities, we need to counteract the tension

with culture,’ president of ICCR Karan Singh said.

The performers are on a five-city tour of New Delhi, Chandigarh, Haridwar, Jaipur and Lucknow as part of the festival.

The festival began with a performance by a 10-member traditional dance repertoire from South Africa, ‘Ubuhle Besintu (The Beauty of Culture)’ – a one-stop shop for all traditional South African dances.

Conceived by Thembinkosi Nkabinde, the co-founder of Umkhonto, a cultural platform, the performance included acts from the ethnic Sepedi, Xhosa, Zulu, Tsonga, Venda and Gumboots (a miner’s jig) dancing traditions.

The dances were rendered to the beats of goat-skin Zimdrum and Shin Bongo drums.

‘We usually dance during weddings and ceremonial initiations. All our dances date back to more than 200 years,’ Johannesburg-based dancer Sandile Mabaso told IANS.

She was dressed in the traditional white and black Umbaco costume.

One of the dances that captured the imagination of the overflowing house, who broke into spontaneous applause after every item, was the ‘gumboots dance’.

A group of four bare-torsoed dancers clad in loose harem pants and black miner boots tap-danced by clapping their hands against their boots.

‘The miners’ dance is an unique genre performed by the gold mine workers in South Africa. It represents the fusion of different cultures that South Africa has been subject to over the last 300 years at the mines that form the region’s

economic mainstay,’ dancer Vuyo Nombeniu told IANS.

The South African rendition was followed by a performance of traditional Rwandan dance by the 12-member troupe, ‘Urukerezeza’ representing the nation’s folklore and a concert by a 11-member traditional music band, Ifriga, from Tunisia that reflected the influence of Islam on Tunisian culture.

Dance is instinctive to Rwandan culture and is rendered collectively. It has evolved over the years by drawing from different styles.

One such dance is the martial Intore performed with spears, a shield and a flowing lion mane wig.

‘Intore or the lion dance is a masculine dance that is used as an expression to narrate war exploits. It symbolises strength,’ dancer Serge Nahimana, dressed in the traditional Ibitako costume – beaded halter strings and white wrap, said.

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