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Australia just wrapped up a big South Asian Festival

Sangam featured 100+ artists across 4 venues over 4 weekends

Beating all the odds offered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sangam, a festival for established and emerging South Asian-Australian artists to learn, create and showcase their art, went ahead in full swing from February 20 to March 13, 2021, in Melbourne.

Featuring over 100+ artists across four venues over four weekends, Sangam 2021 presented a diverse range of music, dance, spoken word, comedy, classical, contemporary and experimental performances.

Breaking away from the Indian hegemony, Sangam had a long list of artists, dancers and creatives from many different and diverse cultural backgrounds of South Asia.

Rukshikaa Elankumaran’s work Amma: The Loss of our Motherland used classical Indian dance and is based on the Tamil Eelam liberation struggles in Sri Lanka. “My work was based on the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle in particular the genocide of 2009 for which there still hasn’t been any accountability. Given that it’s not just a single narrative but rather a collective injustice, I chose to explore the emotions that I personally associated with Eelam in the hopes that the audience can take for themselves the emotions that resonate,” says Rukshikaa.

The trio of Dr Priya Srinivasan, Hari Sivanesan and Uthra Vijay led the inaugural three-day Sangam in 2019 which brought together 80 award-winning South Asian and Australian artists and joined back together for 2021, too. This year was bigger - not just in numbers but also ambition.

“We are very excited about the overwhelming success of the festival. All events, all nine shows across 4 locations and 4 weeks sold out is a remarkable outcome. Not to mention the buzz and excitement it has created for both artists and audiences,” says Dr Priya Srinivasan about the festival's success.

With support from the Victorian Government and Co-produced by Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV), Sangam presented a unique range of events throughout including:

  • A day at Abbotsford Convent dedicated to Raga Immersion, Yoga, Bollywood and Henna followed by an evening of short-spoken word, experimental music/dance, screen performances by 18 diverse South Asian artists packed under the title ‘Dada Desi’ - curated by comedian Sunanda Sachatrakul;
  • The Earth Matters Walking Experience in Dandenong showcasing the best of classical performance in Melbourne at three experimental sites;
  • Experimental performances at Bunjil Place, featuring 15 artists from the South East region mentored for over 6 months;
  • And classical and contemporary South Asian dances at Dancehouse with Sangam Commissions featuring 2 international and 5 Victorian artists at extraordinary premiere showings over 3 evenings.

Based in Naarm/ Melbourne on unceded land, Sangam acknowledges the traditional custodians of the Wurundjeri and Bunnuwurung people and is guided by Blakdance.

Naavikaran, a spoken word artist from Brisbane, performed at ‘Dada Desi’ about queerness and gender diversity. They say, “As South Asians, it's important that we realize the reality of being people of culture on stolen land. I am excited by some of the conversations that Sangam has ignited and the opportunities it will create to be better allies and potential collaborators with Indigenous folk and other people of colour.”

Sangam’s main goals remain to increase South Asian representation, creation and skills. Dr Srinivasan wishes for Sangam 2023 with “hopes of funding and support”.

Because of the lack of South Asian platforms in Australia, Shriraam Theiventhiran usually performs in Chennai. His work Sacred Sensuality was part of the Dancehouse that officially closed the festival.

“Performing in a mainstream space has always been a goal and it happened through Sangam,” says Shriraam.

South Asian Today is Sangam's media partner. All the photos used in this article have been captured by Arun Munoz.

About the author

Dilpreet is the founder of South Asian Today. More about her can be found here.




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