Diwali, Dance And The Indian Diaspora.

It is that time of the year when the local councils in New Zealand and Asia:NZ have ‘official’ celebrations of Diwali in Auckland and Wellington. White folksy interpretation of a Hindu festival with Fiji-Indian conceptualisation and a sprinkle of Hindu fundamentalism disguised as Bollywood. It is a great way to carry on the Free Trade Deal (FTA) dialogue with India, apparently. But definitely a sneaky way for the fundamentalists to hoodwink PC, dumb white folk to think that Hindu=India, all at once homogenous, exotic, hard to understand and where everyone eats samosas. Whoever said cultural integration of diasporic peoples cannot be simplified so as to tick all the boxes? Then we all live happily ever after.

It took me three years to complete this documentary. I went into the homes of my people here, engaged with bright, enthusiastic school kids who have no platform for expression and listened to the ‘elders’ lecture me on the meaning of ‘being Indian’ (or how important they really are).  I also got an amazing story from a old, old man, now deceased, about how he went back to India and participated in the struggle for freedom. There were many of his generation, who,  inspired by Mohandas Gandhi, travelled by sea to India to resist British rule. That unfortunately is not part of the video inserted below but I hope to tell the story some day.

Filmmaking is hard work and without money the only things that sustain you are passion and a burning desire to tell a story.  If I had any funding for this film it might have been a different product. However, the journey so far has made me determined to continue telling stories that don’t fit trends or showcase the exotic peoples of the East and Africa, even as case studies in neo-liberalism.  Middle class Indians across the world are a force to reckon with economically but most of the time (I assume, from my experiences in New Zealand), really not interested in political movements or resistance or protest unless things affect them. Equality and solidarity within humanity is not worth the same as Indians being equal to white people. So we continue to perpetuate stereotypes of a model minority imitating culture from back home and compare ourselves to imperial masters, even aspire to be them. There is a little sliver, a gap somewhere in there though where the stories stay invisible, unheard, un-articulated.  Emotions that overlap, experiences that are shared with all humanity. That’s where I attempt to work. This film is the first of many more to come, as many as I can possibly make in this life. Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “Diwali, Dance And The Indian Diaspora.

  1. Hi Sapna! I’ve heard about you and the work you do, through stuff i’ve read and I suppose just by being another Indian living in New Zealand. So, I was quite pleased when I stumbled across your blog. I loved reading your post and watching the short film on Indian culture, the meaning attributed to it by diaspora communities and the organisers etc and it made me mull over issues that have always fascinated me – identity, what ‘culture’ means and more specifically, what Indian culture really is. So anyway, I just wanted to really say hello and that I loved your post and look forward to more 🙂

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