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Diwali and Samhain

Sadly, as I write this, there are only a few days left of ArtsEkta’s Indo-Celtic festival, however I would still like to share the parts of Diwali and Samhain I have been a part of. The celebrations aren’t over until this Sunday, so please check out the programme to see what’s on.

I really recommend the Coming of Age exhibition, in the Ulster Museum now until Sunday 18th November. Celebrating 21 years of melas in the UK, this vibrant display of photography and poster images is as colourful as you would expect. It is worth calling in simply to get your hands on the beautiful book being given away for free to visitors as part of the exhibition. It’s not just a coffee-table picture book either – it is a carefully written history of melas in the UK, and the role they have played in shaping our multicultural society.

I especially like this quote from artist Keith Khan’s foreword:

“The content of a British mela is implicitly anti-racist, drawing in multiple, diverse and intergenerational communities with different rhythms that appeal to families, youth and indeed specific faith groups within a shared atmosphere of celebration.The perception of the Asian community as closed, impenetrable and obscure is debunked. Visit any mela in the UK and it is clear that this is simply not the case. There is real power in the cultural displays and multiple entry points, from plates of food to transcendent beats and visual displays.”

The beautiful books accompanying the exhibition.

Anyone who reads this blog knows my love of the Belfast Mela – I even wrote a four-week series of posts in the run up to this year’s event. I helped out at the Coming of Age launch event on 6th November and am planning to go back this weekend off-duty to get a proper look at all the gorgeous images.

Last Saturday 10th November I helped out again at an ArtsEkta Diwali and Samhain event in Conway Mill. This gargantuan building off the Falls Road in West Belfast is an amazing place to visit – this was my first time here and I have fallen in love with it. I knew this was where Studio Nineteen was based, but had no idea it housed several other businesses, projects and ventures, as well as a market every Saturday. Since 1982, the former linen mill has been in the hands of the community and operates as a not-for-profit organisation, supporting economic, cultural and community ventures.

I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures before the audience arrived for the festival event.

Little gift shop in the main foyer of the building.

The goodies inside…

Some of the original fixtures and fittings remain.

This stunning glass-roofed courtyard joins the buildings.

Soon, the audience started to arrive for the Diwali and Samhain event – a special play commemorating the life of Sister Nivedita – or Margaret Noble from Dungannon, as she started out in life.

Awakening a Nation tells the story of how this intelligent, gifted teacher from Northern Ireland came to be initiated as a nun into an Indian monastic order. She opened a school, championed female education, women’s rights, India’s art and independence and apparently even designed the first Indian flag. She is still revered in the country to this day, with the dates of her birth and death being observed.

Enjoying the Sister Nivedita exhibition before the play.

I greeted the audience, distributed literature about the play and directed them towards the Sister Nivedita exhibition in the Conway Mill foyer but sadly was unable to stay and watch the play itself, but I was assured afterwards it was a wonderful show. What a fascinating story, and yet another way in which Ireland and India are connected to each other.

Again, I urge you to get along to the Coming of Age exhibition in the Ulster Hall before the sun goes down on Sunday – and to anything else in the festival programme this weekend that hasn’t yet sold out!

A peaceful and happy Diwali and Samhain to you all.

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