Di­wali veteran re­turns to 16th fes­ti­val

Auckland City Harbour News - - OUT & ABOUT - HUGH COLLINS

The Auck­land Di­wali Fes­ti­val has been cru­cial in keep­ing Rahul Cho­pra con­nected to his home­land.

The 27-year-old Mt Roskill res­i­dent has been in­volved with the event every year since its in­cep­tion in 2002.

Hav­ing moved to New Zealand from New Delhi in In­dia 15 years ago, Cho­pra says with­out Di­wali he prob­a­bly would have lost con­nec­tion with his tra­di­tional cul­ture.

‘‘I call New Zealand home … but my eth­nic­ity is In­dian, that’s where my roots are so I think it’s danc­ing and Di­wali that has kept me in touch,’’ Cho­pra says.

‘‘It’s an im­por­tant part of my iden­tity I think, I can’t miss that.’’

The 27-year-old be­gan per­form­ing in the fes­ti­val when it first started out in small com­mu­nity halls.

It has now grown to be­come one of Auck­land’s largest cul­tural fes­ti­vals with around 30,000 at­tend­ing each year.

‘‘It’s also spread from be­ing an In­dian eth­nic thing, there’s prob­a­bly more Ki­wis and Euro­peans that come now be­cause of the colour and the food,’’ Cho­pra says.

Hav­ing grown up as a per­former in the event, Cho­pra has now taken on a role as men­tor for the fes­ti­vals’ younger per­form­ers, ad­vis­ing them on cos­tume, mu­sic and chore­og­ra­phy.

Many of the acts are based on mu­sic and dance from Bol­ly­wood, a cul­tural com­po­nent In­dian youth are heav­ily in­flu­enced by, he says ‘‘I feel the kids and the youth or teenagers in­volved, if they’re not do­ing this they might be do­ing some­thing they shouldn’t be do­ing,’’ Cho­pra says.

‘‘I felt dance is a good way to stay fit and keep them learn­ing a bit of soft skills … they’re learn­ing team build­ing, they’re learn­ing a bit of con­fi­dence when they’re go­ing on stage in front of 20-30,000 peo­ple.’’

The 2016 Auck­land Di­wali Fes­ti­val takes place at Aotea Square and Queen Street from noon till 9pm on Oc­to­ber 15 and 16.

A free event, it cel­e­brates tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary In­dian cul­ture, food, fash­ion and more.

In­ter­na­tional stars at the 2016 Auck­land Di­wali Fes­ti­val in­clude a film star per­form­ing tra­di­tional Kathak dances.

Cho­pra says he ex­pects the fes­ti­val to see over 50,000 peo­ple through­out the week­end.

Visit auck­landnz.com/di­wali for more in­for­ma­tion and a full pro­gramme.

HUGH COLLINS / FAIR­FAX NZ

Rahul Cho­pra says the Auck­land Di­wali Fes­ti­val has been vi­tal in keep­ing him con­nected to his roots.

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