Arts: Indian Festival shows culture 'not just Rushdie and Kureishi'

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The Independent Culture
A major arts festival designed to generate raise awareness of the culture of the Indian subcontinent has been welcomed by as an opportunity to show that there is more to Asian culture than novels by Hanif Kureishi and Salman Rushdie.

The Festival of India's South, which showcases some of the the finest examples of southern India's visual and performing arts, was hailed by prominent members of the community as an opportunity to put the region's rich culture on the map. By and large, they say, Asian art does not get the serious analysis it merits.

"There is no dearth of Asian arts activity in Britain. But the overall perception is that they are of minority interest, so the mainstream tends to ignore them," said Jitendra Verma, artistic director of Tara Arts, a leading Asian theatre company.

Suman Bhuchar, a journalist and TV producer, said: "There are a fair number of performances here both by British Asians and by artistes coming from India, but they rarely get the kind of promotion or publicity they deserve."

Though many Asians voiced their dissatisfaction with the way in which their culture is dealt with by the mainstream media, some said Asians themselves were often uninterested in the artistic and cultural heritage of their country of origin. According to Anjana Patel, project manager for the Asian Community Action Group, very few Indians turn up at exhibitions of Indian arts and crafts which are held throughout the country on a fairly regular basis.

"The young people, especially the second or third generation British Asians, are not interested in ethnic arts. Their ties with the country of their origin are very diluted."

So, often there were more British or European Indophiles at exhibitions of Indian art or performances of classical music and dance than there were Asians themselves, she said.

However, she stressed that such festivals do fill a cultural void for those Asians who are truly interested in their own arts.

Though the Arts Council did not have a breakdown of the audience profile at ethnic programmes, there seems to be a consensus that there is a high level of interest in things Indian among the British public.

S. Mani, a former mayor of Lewisham, said that though the festival was of tremendous importance to the local south Indian community, non-Asians would probably flock to a lot of programmes too.

According to the festival authorities, most programmes are already heavily bookedand a classical dance recital of Bharatnatyam is completely sold out.