Bhutan’s new festival gives you another excuse to visit
As if it wasn’t already on every traveler’s radar, Bhutan is now offering a ten- day culture trip as an indispensable reason to visit
Upping the ante for south Asian cultural festivals is Bhutan, with a ten- day show case of art, film, music, photography and more from all over the world. Under the patronage of Queen Jetsun Pema, the Bhutan International Festival ( BHIF) is set to have quite the debut – with award- winning films and personalities ( Duncan Bridgeman, Lisa Russell), a diversity of music with artists like Lucky Ali, Bellatrix and Koniac Net on stage, several art and photography exhibitions, a TEDx session and even a marathon run. It’s not all international – there are folk dances, art forms, music and – what we’re most looking forward to, food -- on display too. Co- founder Thinley Palden Dorji tells GQ about BHIF’s genesis, what to look out for and why you should be excited.
What was the purpose of creating BHIF?
The aim is to position BHIF as a unique world- class festival that serves not only the artistic community but has a positive ripple effect on the local economy. We decided to bring together various artistic disciplines with an emphasis on collaboration, which will hopefully inspire new works of art and new ways of working.
What sets this one apart from the others present in South Asia?
Most festivals in Bhutan and around the globe are about highlighting the works of individual artists. We decided to take a different approach by not only highlighting individuals, but also encouraging and fostering artistic collaborations between participating artists. Further, we have asked all artists who participate in BHIF to hold knowledge- sharing workshops or master classes. BHIF is committed to furthering education in the arts and that is why it is set up as a not- for- profit; so that all profits go back into legacy projects for the local community and for funding future festival collaborations.
Considering that Bhutan is any traveller’s dream destination, you’d think a festival of this sort would’ve come up a while ago…
It’s true that Bhutan is an ideal destination for this type of event, but keep in mind that the country has only recently emerged from self- imposed isolation. Historically, Bhutan has put all of its efforts into preserving and showcasing its historic cultural heritage and promotion of the traditional festivals. But we are confident the time has come for such an idea to fructify into an amazing festival.
What are you excited about from the line- up?
Some of the highlights are: Lucky Ali, Nick Mulvey, the Harvard- Radcliffe Orchestra’s collaboration with Jigme Drukpa and our local musicians on the music front; the legacy projects for local artists and organizations such as Zorig ( traditional crafts), RAPA ( Royal Academy for Performing Arts); the food festival ( with an emphasis on Bhutanese fusion food) by HRAB ( Hotel and Restaurants Association in Bhutan); and Edenlab’s creative programme, who are our event partners from the UK.
Why include a marathon run in a cultural event?
While it does stand out as a little different to the other events, outdoor activity is an integral part of life for the Bhutanese. Walking and running over the mountains is as much a part of our culture as is the mask dance or eating spicy hot “kewa datsi”, the national dish of Bhutan.
( By Nidhi Gupta, Nidhi is the Assistant Editor at GQ India)