By Vrinda Saxena
On February 28, 2017, the British Council, Indian High Commission and the United Kingdom government launched UK-India Year of Culture, a celebration of the long-standing bilateral ties between India and the UK, with the aim of enriching ties at all levels of the society, institutions and government, and building a shared future for generations to come.
It was follow up to the joint announcement in 2015 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then Prime Minister of UK, David Cameron, of an initiative to mark cultural ties between the two nations; including the current PM Theresa May’s visit to India in 2016, which further strengthened relations. It took place at the British Film Institute (BFI), Southbank, where the BFI National Archive’s restoration of an Indian/British/German co-production Shiraz was announced.
The day of the celebration
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh hosted a reception at the Buckingham Palace to mark India’s 70th Independence Day. Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family met eminent personalities from various fields including art, literature, fashion, food, and sports as an ode to India-UK ties.
The event included programmes celebrating India’s heritage and contemporary culture, blending UK’s artistic traditions with that of India’s. The British Museum staged an exhibition- India and the World: A History in Nine Stories- showcasing some of the most important objects and works of art from museums across India, along with iconic pieces from the British Museum. Alongside, the Science Museum had a series of exhibitions from September 2017 continuing up till May 2018, marking India’s rich culture and history of innovation, called Illuminating India.
The last phase of the year
This year on February 18, to mark the last phase of India-UK Year of Culture and 70 years of British Council in India, the British Council brought the ‘Museum of Moon’ to India. The touring art piece created by Bristol artist Luke Jerram measures seven meters in diameter and is a fusion of lunar imagery, moonlight and surround sound composition. It features a 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. At an approximate scale of 1:500000, each centimeter of the internally lit spherical structure 5KM of the moon’s surface. Over this month, the Moon will travel to 5 different locations in India. It has been to Udaipur, Bengaluru, and Mumbai, and is currently on display at the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata.
“We are thrilled to be in India and would love to observe and contemplate cultural similarities and differences while simultaneously also considering the latest moon science in the country”, said Luke Jerram. He added,“The India visit of the Museum is not only an opportunity for the public to have close experience with the moon but also for us to get a deeper understanding of the moon’s cultural significance in the country.” It is at this point that we can indeed ponder over the significance the moon holds, specifically in the Indian society. Its heterogeneous nature makes it all the more interesting and compelling.
One of the major religions of India, Hinduism, regards the moon as Chandra or the Moon God, who is believed to be the one who causes the crops and plants to grow. Purnima (full-moon) and Amavasya (no-moon) are central to the determination of a plethora of festivals and significant periods. In fact, Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated on Amavasya. Eid, the greatest festival of Islam, another prominent religion of India, is celebrated as per sighting of the moon.
There is no dearth of commemoration of the moon in India, with traditions like Karvachauth, where married women fast all day long for the health and well-being of their husbands, only to consume food and condiments once they see the moon and subsequently the face of their partners. Besides, the ample contribution of the moon to literature has not missed the Indian soil. Popular culture, cinema, and songs have long compared the moon and the beloved.
Major highlights of the event
The India-UK Year of Culture will see the screening of the movie Shiraz, in the UK and also in India (where it has hardly been seen since 1928), with the Taj Mahal forming a backdrop. Both the screenings will be accompanied by a live performance by the Indian composer and Sitar player, Anoushka Shankar. The Arts Council England has invested huge sums, along with Creative Scotland and Wales Art International, to help English artists and organisations exchange ideas and develop partnerships with their Indian counterparts.
The UK Department for International Trade (DIT) together with India on Track (IOT) and Premier League will bring key British and Indian football clubs, sports organisations and businesses for the second holding of ‘The Football Movement’, in Mumbai. The British Council’s international radio station ‘The Selector’ will be partnering with leading music festivals in India. Digital initiatives include the likes of ‘Mix the City’, an interactive digital platform, created by the British Council, which will showcase the diversity of sound, music, and culture of 4 Indian cities. It will feature 12 Indian musicians and 4 UK curators. The ‘Random Acts- Big Dance Shorts’ is a platform that will have 4 excellent 3-minute dance film ideas commissioned for the Random Acts Program- with the heart of India-UK collaborations.
In addition, the British Council and Aardman Animations are coming together for a project called Saptan Stories- a giant game of consequences played out across the whole of India. 7 world class artists, from India and UK, each will illustrate a seven-part story, resulting in 7 different visual interpretations of one unique story.
‘The Troth by Akademi’ a multimedia work based on the first short Hindi story by Chandradhar Sharma Guleria, marked the 70th anniversary of India’s freedom. Late 2017 saw a three-night audio-visual collaboration, Different Trains of 1947, in London, Liverpool, and Rajasthan. In line with the current focus in India on girl child welfare, a photographic project titled ‘Girls, Girls, Girls!’ explored India and its women through the lens of four pioneering female photographers from India and UK.
In this age, thus, the world is increasingly coming to recognise the rich heritage and cultural extravagance that India is generously bestowed with. It is a great time to be living in whilst the heterogeneity of world cultures is being respected and their amalgamation is increasingly homogenising world culture.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia
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