Diwali in B.C. spot­lights women in in­au­gu­ral se­ries

The Georgia Straight - - Arts - > JANET SMITH

After cu­rat­ing Diwali Fest for the past four years, Ro­hit Chokhani is tak­ing on an even big­ger vi­sion.

He’s launch­ing Diwali in B.C., a five-week cul­tural cel­e­bra­tion from Thursday (Oc­to­ber 12) to Novem­ber 16 that takes South Asian–flavoured, cul­ture-fus­ing theatre, dance, and other works provincewide.

The in­au­gu­ral year puts the spot­light on women, with the artis­tic theme of Shakti, or the power of the fem­i­nine. “I just wanted to rep­re­sent peo­ple who aren’t be­ing rep­re­sented—and women are do­ing di­verse work,” Chokhani tells the Straight by phone.

Chokhani, who’s worked as ev­ery­thing from an ap­pren­tice direc­tor at Bard on the Beach to pro­ducer in res­i­dence at the National Arts Cen­tre, ex­plains his de­sire to go provincewide was partly be­cause of high de­mand from au­di­ences and a wish to ex­pand his per­sonal cu­ra­to­rial state­ment. He adds there’s no short­age of work to pro­gram, or lo­cal artists do­ing it.

“The way you cel­e­brate Diwali in Canada is dif­fer­ent from India,” he says. “I’ve al­ways cu­rated the fest to be mul­ti­cul­tural.”

Amid the of­fer­ings, look for not only the in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary per­for­mance En­counter at the Cultch (see story above), but Deepa Me­hta’s most re­cent film, Anatomy of Vi­o­lence (Novem­ber 4 at the Cine­plex Odeon In­ter­na­tional Village), which takes a hard look at the men who com­mit­ted the no­to­ri­ous gang rape on a bus in India. Else­where, Diwali in B.C. is co­p­re­sent­ing the re­turn to town of Dipti Me­hta’s Hon­our: Con­fes­sions of a

Mum­bai Cour­te­san (Oc­to­ber 20 to Novem­ber 4 at the Vancity Cul­ture Lab), and Pamela Mala Sinha’s Happy Place (Oc­to­ber 19 to 29 at the Fire­hall Arts Cen­tre). Novem­ber 16 at the York Theatre, look for clas­si­cal bharata natyam work Shyama, chore­ographed by Man­dala Arts and Cul­ture So­ci­ety’s Jai Govinda and per­formed by Arno Kamo­lika, based on Rabindranath Tagore’s epic drama.

There’s more pro­gram­ming (see www.di­wal­ibc.ca/), with a cabaret-style Diwali cel­e­bra­tion at the Ev­er­green Cul­tural Cen­tre in Co­quit­lam, the far­thest afield of the of­fer­ings—so far. Chokhani hopes even­tu­ally to reach the far­thest cor­ners of B.C. with his arts of­fer­ings. “This year is just a step­ping­stone,” he says.

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