Thursday, 30 March 2017

Exploring Kochi Art Biennale

When I had planned my visit to Kochi (Kerala, India), I had not thought about the Kochi Art Biennale. It was being held in the beautiful Fort Kochi area, where I was staying. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to visit the Biennale and to expand my ideas about art.

The image below shows the famous Chinese fishing nets of Fort Kochi.


ART IN KOCHI BIENNALE

Art at the Biennale touched on all the different ways of human expression - paintings, sculptures, architecture, sounds and videos. Appreciating some of them required sitting down, without feeling rushed. However I had little time and I wanted to see a lot of things, so that was not easy.

The location of Fort Kochi, especially the old ruined buildings next to the sea, contributed to the experience of appreciating art. For example, the image below shows the installation, “Shell Mycelium – Degradation movement manifesto” by Asif Rehman Junaid, Giambattista Areddia and Mohamad Yassin, at the Dutch Warehouse (MAP). I felt that the location with the ruins added so much to this installation.


First, I want to tell about three of my favourite art experiences from the Biennale. For me art is all about emotions and feelings. Thus, my favourite art experiences were those that had a strong emotional impact on me.

1. INVERSO MUNDUS BY AES+F

This video installation at Anand Warehouse of Fort Kochi was the best experience I had at the Biennale. The video was projected on a huge screen. It was very powerful and provocative. 

It was by AES+F. It made me think about things we take for granted in the daily life - it turned them upside down. For example, the way we treat animals, the way we treat women and the new areas of scientific research.

One episode had a butcher guy hanging upside down. Then a pig came and opened the guy’s tummy with a knife, to let the blood drain out, as the butchers do with the pigs.


In another episode young guys were tied down and women came with shears, scissors and other instruments to cut them and mark them like animals.


I also liked another work of AES+F presented at the Biennale – Dèfilé. In this work, they had presented some digital images of recently dead persons dressed as fashion models. They explained the concept of this work as, “Motionless bodies in early decomposition, dressed in clothing of an industry obsessed with youth and what is hot right now.


2. THE PYRAMID OF EXILED POETS BY ALES STEGER

Ales Steger is from Slovenia. His installation at the compound of Aspinwall House had a pyramid with sound recordings of poets who were exiled from their countries. The poets included Bertolt Brecht, Dante Allighieri, Mahmoud Darwish and Ivan Blatn.


I am a little claustrophobic. When I had visited the pyramids in Giza (Egypt), I had not entered the pyramid tunnel because of this fear. However, Steger’s pyramid did not look big and I entered it without thinking. The dark narrow spaces inside it, immediately made me wish to turn back and go out. However, there were other persons behind me and going back was not an option. Thus, I moved slowly, keeping my hand on the wall and trying to take deep breaths to calm myself.

Perhaps it was this state of heightened awareness that contributed to making it a strong emotional experience. The textures of the wall, the smell of mud and wood, the voices of the poets and the suffocating darkness, they were all part of this art experience.

3. TWELVE STORIES OF P. K. SADANANDAN

P. K. Sadanandan is from Thrissur (Kerala, India). His “Twelve stories of the 12 progeny” was a mural painted with natural pigments.


His painting style seemed similar to the 17th century murals from the king's house (Dutch Palace) in Mattancherry in Fort Kochi. His illustrations made me think of a tropical jungle. Episodes of the stories were often separated by rope-lines just like the murals in the Dutch palace. There was a dominance of blue and grey in his images that was beautiful.


This mural depicted the traditional stories of the 12 families (kulam) of a woman called Parayi Petta Panthiru. These stories provide lessons for life such as value of listening, importance of fate and inequality of the caste system.

OTHER ART AT BIENNALE WHICH I LIKED

Apart from the above three art installations which had a strong impact on me, I also liked the following works:

Go Playces: Orijit Sen’s installation had city maps composed of persons, families, shops and events of daily life. These events intersected with the stories of his experiences of visiting these cities. Some of those experiences were represented on magnetic jig-saw puzzle pieces. Thus, the interactive installation invited visitors to imagine the location of those jigsaw puzzle pieces on the maps.


There were too many persons, especially young guys, interacting with this installation, so it was a little bit noisy. Yet, the stories of visits and looking at the huge colourful maps of people and events touched me, making me think of some of my own journeys and experiences.

Riff Off by Bob Gramsma: A huge concrete wall fallen inside a mud pit may seem to be a very unlikely art installation. Many persons would have difficulty in seeing the “art” in it. Yet, it had a strong emotional impact on me.


Bob Gramsma is from Switzerland. His site-specific sculpture in concrete is “a register of an excavated hole”. His explanation about how this sculpture was produced says: “After digging an extensive opening in the earth, a concrete cast was made to produce an inverted sculptural reproduction of the previously created void… it sits as a monumental, inverted blueprint of an excavation it now dissects.

I am not so sure why it had that impact on me. Perhaps it was the idea of seeing the space created by excavation, not as an empty void, but as a steel and concrete structure.

Bathroom set: Dia Mehta Bhupal (Mumbai, India) had two installations in Biennale. I liked her “Bathroom Set” (it was more of a male urinal rather than a bathroom) in blue, grey and white. It had a strong impact on me because it made me look differently at a place often associated with strong unpleasant smells.


The whole installation was made of scraps of papers taken from magazines – a papier mache world.

Big Dog: Liu Wei is from China. Her installation used oxhide, used for making chewing toys for dogs. She had used oxhide to construct Greek temples, amphitheatres and Roman arches - models of classical Roman/Greek architecture, made from animal skin.


Room for lies: Sunil Padwal (Mumbai, India) brought together daily-life objects of the past, filling the walls with murals of nostalgia.


Visiting the room made me feel as if I had entered an old persons' room, full of memorabilia collected over a life-time.

Secret Dialogues: During my visit, the artist C. Bhagyanath (Thalassery, India) was in the room where his works were displayed.


He works on semi-transparent sheets, creating line drawings on each layer, so that by overlapping the sheets, they create a narrative. Depending upon the work, the layers can vary from 2 to 6 or even more. Most of his works at the Biennale were drawings with carbon, with an occasional use of red colour.


He explained his work as, “… a story about layers, about how we add to what comes before to express the relationship between mind and body, human and animal, inside and outside."

Where the flowers still grow: Bharat Sikka (New Delhi, India) presented a series of photographs and some daily life objects from Kashmir to express his feelings of living in a war zone and how people try to continue to live in spite of everything.

I thought that the photographs and objects he had selected were interesting. For example, among the objects was a box of ammunition that could have belonged to militants or to the Indian army. It also made me think of army persons who live far away from their homes and families and how the violence and war experiences change them.


In this installation, I also felt that a row of dusty, worn out shoes laid out in a corner of the room, was incredibly moving.

Tears of Taj Mahal: Ouyang Jianghe uses calligraphy to create textual sculptures. I love the idea of sculptures of words. It reminds me somehow of the white-books sculptures of the Italian artist Lorenzo Perrone, though the two have completely different concepts.


Jiaghe’s sculptures are hanging scrolls on which he writes. He feels that the meanings of the words are not important, rather it is the complexity of language.

The Pavillion: The Pavillion was a hall at the Cabral Yard where they held meetings, interviews and events of the Biennale. Tony Joseph (Calicut, India) was the architect of this pavillion. I loved the ceiling of the hall covered with saris and lit by lights in changing colours.


Sathe Nagar here: Different artists from Sathe Nagar community in Mumbai had created this architectural installation next to Cochin Club near the beach of Fort Kochi. They organised a series of events, performances and meetings in the installation. It included photographs, videos and soundscapes to present the life in Sathe Nagar.


The installation included some written panels. For example, a panel  talked about the lives of immigrants who have left their families behind in the villages. It started with, “Majhi Maina Gavavar Rahili, my Mynah, my love was left behind in the village, my heart stirs restlessly remembering her, her attractive body, her moon like face, good natured and large hearted, she is to me, what Sita was to Ram…

Kissa Kursi Ka: A series of installations on the theme of chairs was organised at Heritage Art gallery near the Jewish Synagogue in Mattancherry. The installation by Gunajan Gupta had the background of traditional arts from Kerala and other parts of India. It explored the links between art and design.


CONCLUSIONS

Kochi Biennale 2016-17 with more than 90 artists from a large number of countries, was a wonderful opportunity to see how the ideas and concepts of art are evolving. My conclusion was that art has blurred boundaries.

I felt that short abstract videos, like an installation that explored the rain drops falling on a window pane, was easy to consider as art – because it was about sensations and emotions and not about a story. But “Inversus Mundus” was very clearly a film with episodes and short stories or ideas. I could have seen it as a part of a film festival. So there was this blurring of boundaries between the art-forms that seems to be part of the contemporary understandings about art.

I was also not sure about computer generated art, such as the three-D printed sculptures. I felt as if the artist had cheated by using the three-D printing instead of actually sculpting. Probably, this only means that I belong to an older generation!

I want to conclude this post with another image of an art installation that I liked. It was called Fish Cemetery. It was located on the Fort Kochi beach and was not part of the Art Biennale. Its objective was to creare awareness about environment. It was by Manoj Brahmamangalam and Pramod Gopalakrishnan.



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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Exploring the beachside town of Bibione

Clear blue waters, beautiful nature and a large variety of seaside fun activities makes Bibione a wonderful holiday destination for persons who like the sea. At the same time, it also provides a lot of opportunities to explore art, culture and architecture in many of the historical small towns around Bibione.


Bibione is a holiday town along the Adriatic coast in the north-east of Italy, north of Venice. Thus if you are planning holidays in Bibione, this post is for you.

Bibione History

Bibione was a marshy area till 1960s. During 1970s, the marshes were filled and slowly Bibione started to develop as a holiday destination.

The first houses in Bibione had come up in the eastern part of the beach, around Corso del Sole and the area that is now known as "Lido dei Pini". Since those early days, the city grew, mainly towards the west in areas called Pineta and Lido del Sole, with hundreds of hotels and holiday homes and is now one of the biggest holiday centres in the north of Italy.

Over the past three decades, for our family our annual summer holidays in Bibione are a lovable tradition.




Reaching Bibione

The nearest airport is Venice airport about 90 km away. Bibione is connected to Venice and the airport by taxis, boats and buses. The nearest railway station is in Latisana, about 25 km away. Latisana is connected to Bibione by taxis and buses. The bus from Latisana city centre will drop you near the Bibione city centre.


Just for staying in Bibione you do not need a car, you can walk every where, though with the expansion of the city, reaching the far end of the new areas in Pineta may need 15-20 minutes of walk. However, if you are interested in discovering the art, culture and history of the neighbouring medieval towns you will need a car.

For staying in Bibione, there are a lot of options - apartments, independent houses, residences and hotels.


Fun at the seaside

Personally I am not very fond of lazying around on the beach. I did it when our son was small and he used to love the beach, but now I usually go to the beach only for a swim or an early morning/evening walk. However, if you like to spend time on beach, in Bibione you can find opportunities for boat riding and paddle-boat riding.


Along the beach, there are also places where you can play a game of bowls or beach volley or badminton. There are also exercise and dance classes on the beach.

If you plan to spend lot of time on the beach, you may prefer to rent an umbrella and some reclining chairs. Beach is divided into areas, each with its own distinctive colours of umbrella, managed through a kiosk where you can rent per day, per week or for a month.

If you do not mind carrying your own umbrella and chairs, in between, there are many free areas. Apart from the free beaches, there are also areas with umbrellas and chairs where dogs are allowed. For example, dogs are allowed at the Pluto beach in Lido dei Pini.


Nature walks

However, Bibione is not just about soaking sun, seaside walks and swims. The surrounding countryside is also good for nature walks and bicycle rides. You will find farmers in the fields, country houses selling fresh vegetables, ducks walking across the path and many horse-rearing places where you can try horse-riding lessons.

For example, at Lido dei Pini, a new passage has been built along the sea, that passes through a protected forest, and takes you to the lighthouse and Tagliamento river. Similar passages close to the sea are also available near the Bibione Thermal Baths and in Pineta.


Adventure sports 

If you prefer something more adrenalin stimulating, you can try kiting, water-scooters, speed boats, or wind-surfing. Many schools for teaching and renting equipment for the adventure sports and boats are based along the seaside.


On the other hand you can also try playing Bocce (bowls) or handball or attending some beach-dance class. Evenings have concerts in the promenade in Piazza Zenith near the sea and some nights have the fireworks displays, usually at midnight.


Eating Out in Bibione

The city is full of restaurants, pizzerias and take-aways. However, most of the restaurants offer Italian cuisine and it is not easy to find places offering Chinese, Asian, African or South American cuisines. There are some really wonderful ice cream parlours in Bibione where you can try some special flavours of the famous Italian ice cream.

Bibione city Centre

If you do not wish to go out of the city, you can go for a walk in the city centre, full of shops and amusement arcades for children. Corso Europa, the main central street of Bibione is reserved for pedestrians and is the place to spend a couple of hours in the evening without getting bored.


Bibione Thermal Baths

Bibione has a famous thermal bath with qualified staff. You can go there for specific therapies as well as, for massages and rejuvenation therapies. Personally I have not been there, but my wife has been there many times and vouches for this place.

Day-trips from Bibione

Bibione provides some wonderful opportunities for discovering the art, culture and history of the neighbouring medieval towns such as Caorle, Portogruaro, Splimbergo, Redipuglia, Aquileia and Grado.

There are also some amusement parks such as Liliput land and the zoo near Lignano.


You can also visit Venice as a day trip. You can take a bus to Venice. There are also daily organised one-day tours to Venice from Bibione. Visiting towns like Trieste or going across the Italian border to visit Slovenia, Austria or Croatia, is also possible during a day-trip.

Conclusions

Over the past four decades, we have spent so many wonderful days in Bibione, swimming, going for walks and visiting nearby medieval towns during day-trips. In this period, the city has grown and today offers exciting opportunities for all kinds of entertainment and relaxation.


Writing this post has been a wonderful experience because it gave me an opportunity to look at a lot of old pictures and to remember the good times we have had there.

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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Old houses of Grado

The old town of Grado is an island city in the north-east of Italy. The town is composed of about 30 islands out of which, only three islands are permanently inhabited. It is also called the Sun Island and the First Venice. This post is about visiting Grado.


If you are holidaying in one of the towns on the north-eastern Adriatic coast of Italy such as Lignano, Bibione or Caorle, you can visit Grado as a day trip, combining it with a visit to the Roman ruins of Aquileia a few kilometres away.

Islands of Grado

The town of Grado is on the biggest island and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. The other two inhabited islands are Schiusa and Barbana. Schiusa is connected to Grado by two bridges while to visit Barbana, you need a boat. The town also includes some villages on the mainland including the protected wildlife area of Valle Cavanata.

The beaches of Grado face south and it is known as the Sun Island because of its good climate. Like Venice but older to it, being a city of different islands, it is also called the First Venice.

Grado developed around 450 CE, as the sea port connected to Aquileia. Soon it became an important town and two big Basilica churches were built here - St. Eufemia and St. Maria delle Grazie. For a few centuries, Grado was the most important port in the north-east of Italy. However as the island city of Venice, 135 km to the south, became more important, Grado declined. In the 12th century, the Patriarch of Grado shifted to Venice. Gradually, Grado became a poor village of the fishermen.

St Eufemia cathedral

This church was built in 579 CE, at the site of an older and smaller church. It is a simple and linear building in red brick. At the top of its bell tower there is a copper statue of archangel St. Michael, added to the building in 1462.


Roman Ruins

Not far from the St Eufemia cathedral, you can see the remains of the floor and some walls of the Court Basilica church from the 4th century CE.


Old Houses of Grado

My favourite part of Grado are its old houses, many of them from the medieval period. These old houses and the narrow streets of the old town, give this town a special look that reminds us of its history. It is full of shops and restaurants for the tourists, many of them are located in the old medieval buildings.

Beyond the city you can see its port and its deep sandy beaches. The best time to visit Grado is in early July when the city celebrates its traditional Barbana boat race.


Along the sea, Grado has a nice walking area, the Lungomare.


Conclusions

Our first visit to Grado was brief, as we had stopped on our way to visit Aquileia. Thus, we were unable to visit much of this city. The parts we saw were beautiful, especially the characteristic old houses, the small squares and the narrow streets of the old town.


We did not have time to visit its beach. We also did not visit the other old church of St. Maria delle Grazie. So we are planning to go back to visit during the next summer.

Meanwhile if you are holidaying on the Adriatic coast in the north-east of Italy, do visit Grado, if you have some time!

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Thursday, 16 March 2017

Roman port of Aquileia

Two thousand years ago, Aquileia on the Adriatic coast of north-east Italy was one of the biggest cities of the world. Today it is a small town with a population of few thousand persons. This is how the wheels of history move, leaving behind ruins and stories. This post is about discovering Aquileia.


If you holidaying in a neighbouring seaside town like Lignano, Bibione or Caorle, visit Aquileia for a wonderful day trip. Aquileia is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Roman Town of Aquileia

Aquileia is situated in the north-eastern part of Italy, not far from the modern day Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. Before the arrival of the Romans, Celtic people lived here and called it Akylis. At that time it was an important centre for the trade of amber.

Aquileia became a Roman colony in 181 BCE. It was the Roman frontier-town in the north for launching military campaigns in the northern and eastern Europe. Around 58 BC, Julius Ceasar established here his command centre (the Circum Aquileie) and it became the capital of the whole region. Around 300 CE, the emperor Maximillian built a big palace in Aquileia.

Situated on the banks of river Natiso and just 13 km from the sea, Aquileia was an important port city controlling the local trade. Caesar visited it many times and a good road network connected it to other cities like Bologna and Genoa.

At its peak the city's population was one hundred thousand and it was one of the biggest cities in the world. However, by the fifth century CE, the western part of Roman empire were already in decline and thus, slowly Aquileia lost its strategic importance. Around 1,100 CE though the city had become less important, it was still a big Roman town and a new big cathedral was built here. In the medieval period, it passed under the Republic of Venice and then in 19th century, under the Austrian-Hungerian empire.

More recently, during the First World war, fighting took place in Aquileia. After the war, Aquileia became part of Italy.

Today Aquileia is a tiny hamlet with a population of only 3,500 persons. However because of its history, it is one of the major archaeological sites in northern Italy.

Roman ruins of Aquileia

Passing armies, wars, floods, earthquakes and the passage of time, have destroyed all the Roman period buildings of Aquileia. Some archaeological excavations have brought out the old roads and foundations of important buildings such as amphitheatre, forum and the port.


Cathedral of Aquileia

Aquileia has a beautiful basilica church from 11th century, built over an older church. The bell tower of the basilica is visible from far away. The facade of the church is in Romanesque-early Gothic style.


Outside the basilica, a column carries the statue of a she-wolf feeding two babies Romolo and Remo, the symbol of imperial Rome.


Inside, the basilica has a much older (from 4th century CE) wonderful original mosaic floor and beautiful frescoes on the walls. A transparent glass pathway allows the visitors to walk above the floor to see these mosaics and the frescoes from close, without damaging them. The frescoes from 12th century depict the life of saint Hermagoras, the first bishop of Aquileia.


War Cemetery

Behind the basilica a path connects this area to the ruins of the old Roman port. This area also has a military cemetery from the first world war.


The cemetery also has the tomb of Saint Hermagoras, the first bishop of Aquileia from 3rd century CE.

Candia Memorial

A round shaped monument called "Candia Memorial" was built in Aquileia in 1956. The stones and materials from a two thousand years old tomb, discovered in 1952 in the nearby Roncolon of Fiumicello, were used to build this memorial.


The funds for this reconstruction came from Marcello Candia who wanted a memorial in the memory of his father, Camillo Candia. Thus a two thousand years old Roman tomb was used to build a modern-day memorial. Marcello Candia was a rich industrialist of Aquileia, who later emigrated and dedicated his life to serving the persons affected with leprosy in Brazil. Therefore, apart from the Roman monument of Aquileia that is known by his name, Marcello Candia's name is also associated with the Marituba leprosarium in Brazil.

Conclusions

Today when you visit Aquileia, its magnificent ruins give some idea of the importance of this ancient town during the expansion of Roman empire. Yet, it is difficult to imagine that this far away, isolated place was one of the biggest cities in the ancient world.


For me, one of the most beautiful part of the visit to Aquileia was the mosaics of its Basilica Cathedral. Even if you can't visit it, you can admire this church and its mosaics and frescoes in a virtual tour on internet.

However if you are visting this part of Italy for some seaside holidays, do visit Aquileia and the nearby island of Grado.

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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Dancing in Assam

Assam in the north-east of India has a rich tradition of dance, music and theatre. This photo-essay presents some of the classical and folk traditions of Assam.


People of Assam 

Assamese people are a mixture of different races and ethnicities. Over the centuries, people from central and north India, from the Tibetan plateau, from the neighbouring areas of China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, have all contributed to Assamese people and cultures.

Ahoms, who came from the neighbouring Myanmar in the 12th century and ruled Assam for almost eight hundred years, have been a strong influence. Neighbouring Bengal and Odisha, have also been an important influence.

Assam also has different indigenous groups such as Bodo, Mising, Deori, Rabha, Tiwa, Lalung, Khamti, Sonowal, Karbi, Naga, Dimasa and Singpo. It also has tribes from central India who were brought to Assam by the British during the past hundred and fifty years to work in the tea gardens (tea tribes).


All these different groups of people bring their cultures to Assam and thus contribute to the richness of the Assamese dance, music and theatre traditions.

Traditional Dance, Music and Theatre

Traditional performing arts of Assam are of two kinds - folk traditions and classical traditions.

Folk traditions are based in rural communities and are orally transmitted between the generations. Only over the past decades, written materials about some folk traditions have been developed.


Folk theatre can be on different themes - religious, satires related to daily lives, romantic stories and historical figures. Assam has different folk theatre traditions focusing on religious themes such as Ojapali, Kamrupia Dhulia, Putula Nach, etc. Another area of religious folk theatre is Jatra, which also has many variations in Assam such as Manai Jatra and Bhasan Jatra. Finally, there are dramatic theatre traditions that can be religious or non-religious, such as Paseti and Mothoni.

Classical traditions of Assam are strongly influenced by the Vaishnavaite teachings of Shrimanta Shankar Dev and his disciple Madhabdev in the 16th -17th centuries. Religious centres called Sattra established by the followers of Shankar Dev have developed cultural traditions. These revolve around the texts of Padma Purana and other Hindu scriptures. Classical traditions are governed by codified norms. These include Bhaona theatre, Gayan-Bayan singing traditions and Sattriya dance.

Traditional dances and theatre are accompanied by different musical instruments such as cymbals (Kartal, Khutital, Bhortal), anklets, drums (Joidhol, Deodhol, Nagara, Bordhol, Mridanga, Khol), flutes (Kali, Benu, Bonsi) and cord-instruments (Lautukari, Benu, Aktara).

During 20th century, Bhupen Hazarika, a multi-faceted Assamese artist with interests in folk music, dance and theatre, has been a significant influence in Assam, leading to a renaissance of the traditional art forms.

Classical Music, Dance and Theatre of Assam

Majuli island in Brahmaputra, not far from Jorhat, has the most important Sattra that carry forward the legacy of Shrimanta Shankar Dev.

The image below presents a scene from Ramayana from a Bhaona performance of a group from Majuli, showing princess Sita. All the female roles in Bhaona are usually played by men.


Popular folk theatre also uses masks in performances. The next image has a Krishna Putula for a theatre performance, created by master craftsman Debkanta Mahanta.


The next image presents Gayan-Bayan, the singing and story-telling tradition from a sattra in Majuli. These are sung by male monks from the Sattra and are accompanied by percussion drums (dhol) and medium size cymbals. During the singing there are also dancing movements using the drums.


The third image presents a Sattriya dance performance by Ms Shrutimala Medhi of Guwahati. Often the Sattriya dance is used to tell a story about Krishna and are like one-act plays (Ankiya Nat). However, the dance can also be abstract. The movements of hands (mudra) and feet (pada), as well as the different body postures must follow the codified dance norms.


The next image has a group of Cymbal dancers, a kind of Sattriya dance, where the dancers use medium size cymbals during their dance.


Traditional Dance and Theatre linked with Bihu

Bihu festivals linked with agricultural life are the most popular cultural events of Assam. There are three Bihu festivals – Rongali Bihu, Kongali Bihu and Bhogali Bihu. Bihu folk dance is the most popular dance of Assam.

During this dance, men are responsible for singing, music and dance. The music instruments used in the dance include cymbols, dhols (drums) and pepa. The men wear dhoti and gamocha. The women wear mekhla-chador dresses and one of their characteristic dance movement is that of bending slightly forward with hands on their backs, as shown in the next image.


Folk Music, Dance and Theatre of Assam

The first image has boys in the traditional dress of Dimasa (children of the river) tribe who are part of Kachari people. Their mythological stories are about Bangla raja (earthquake god) and a divine bird called Arikhidima.


This group was from Dima Hasao (sometimes called Hsiao) district of Assam. Their drum is called Khram.

The next image has dancing young women from the Mising (also called Mishing) tribe. This is one of the bigger tribes of Assam, spread over different districts. This dance is called Lotta Sohman and is accompanied by folk songs called Oi Nitom.


Karbi tribe is one of the larger groups of persons in Assam. This tribe lives in the hills across different districts. The next image has a martial dance called Chong Kedam performed by the men and women of Karbi tribe who carry swords and shields.


It is said that the Karbi tribe is originally from China and this dance is about their southwards journey when they came to Assam. During the dance, the male dancers show vigorous exercises.

The next image is also about the Karbi tribe and shows the young men in the Nemso Kerung dance. This dance is part of Chomonkan ceremony related to a funeral of elderly persons in the family.


Assam is also home to some Naga tribes. Next image has a group of Naga dancers from the Karbi Anglong district. Naga dresses have a dominance of black and red colours.


Assam has a significant number of Muslims and traditional Axamia Muslim communities are culturally integrated in mainstream. Zikra is the specific traditional music form linked with the Axamia Muslims, shown in the next image.


The Next image is about the Popular Theatre of Assam – from the play Sati Bahula directed by Lakhendra Gunnakar Goswami.


Assam shares the tradition of wandering singing mistrals called Bauls with neighbouring Bengal. Bauls are often travellers who carry their songs of devotion to the rural areas. Though close to Hindu ascetics, they also include persons from the Muslim Sufi tradition. The last image of this post has a woman Baul singer during the Ambubashi festival at Kamakhaya temple in Guwahati.


Conclusions

This is just a brief glimpse into the rich traditional dance, theatre and music heritage of Assam in the north-east of India. I lived for about a year and half in Guwahati, the capital of Assam, during 2015-16. This was a great opportunity to know and appreciate some of those traditions.

References: Folk Theatre of Assam, by Gitali Saikia & Sanjib Luchan Tamuli, Jansanyog, Directorate of Information and Public Relations, Assam, India

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