Clusters within the main theme
Again, it was in our attempt to decipher this multifaceted India that we identified seven sub-themes within the overall theme of encounters. These appeared to be enlightening and essential for anyone attempting to understand what India is. Each of these sub-themes, designed to facilitate a better reading of the programme, will be centralized as possible in one cultural venue or city. Each of the themes will feature all artistic disciplines: exhibitions, music, dance, theatre, literature, conferences and film...
Alternating between sensual, untouchable, adorned, sacred, tool or obstacle, it is because the body touches upon so many aspects of Indian culture that we have chosen it as the central theme of the festival’s opening exhibition and as a gateway to the rest of the festival. This also enables us to get to grips with India without reducing it to a single religion, region or historical period.
'Indomania' sounds a bit like an agreeable disease, an obsession, and a fascination. Europalia.india will more precisely broach that of the West for Indian culture and civilisation, in all its historical grandeur but also in the details of its knowledge, lifestyle and wonders. This attraction, which we already find traces of in the Roman world, accelerated after Vasco de Gama and later with British colonialism. It has spawned numerous studies dedicated to a wide variety of subjects, but also a passion for Indian textiles, objects, artworks and philosophy. Less well known than Egyptomania, Indomania is still alive and kicking today, often conveying an idea of Indian exoticism with its share of clichés, and resulting in very diverse works: from reinterpretations of Moghul miniatures by Rembrandt to the birth of “Krishna Pop” by The Beatles, amongst others…
3. INDIA TOMORROW
Over 50% of the Indian population is aged less than 25 years. This explains why europalia.india wanted to dedicate a considerable part of its programme to young people who play an active role in building the India of tomorrow. This is certainly the case for a new generation of artists who have emerged since the 1990s and who focus on major changes taking place in India, such as the liberalisation of the economy, urbanisation and globalisation. Often embedded in the urban context, but also in rural or remote environments, these artists and multidisciplinary artist collectives are seeking new artistic experiences.
4. LIVING TRADITIONS
With 1.2 billion inhabitants, numerous religions – both major and hidden –more than 100 spoken languages and 600 officially recognized peoples, India is one of the most diverse nations on earth. This diversity is reflected in countless cultural expressions: regional, tribal, folk, crafts, music, dance, theatre, sculpture, and graphic traditions…In contrast with Europe, these traditions are still very much alive and continue to influence contemporary artists. India’s strength – and probably a lesson for Europe- is to continue to consider these traditions as contemporary. The continuation of these skills, and their evolution, is at the heart of an interesting debate.
The word 'India' originates from the Indus River, one of the country’s seven sacred rivers. The country is also largely turned towards the sea. Water has always been instrumental in Indian civilisation. It is the elixir of life: the monsoon, vital for crops and the ultimate romantic season. The sacred rivers are religious sanctuaries but also places for everyday activities: praying, playing, working, walking and washing. But water is also intrinsically linked to death, because of its scarcity, the diseases it sometimes carries and its religious role: the sacred water of the Ganges purifies the body and frees the soul of the deceased. The social, economic and geopolitical challenge of water provokes numerous discussions and has always inspired the poets, musicians and artists of all eras. It also lies at the heart of many contemporary art projects.
6. BOLLYWOOD & BEYOND
'India' and 'cinema' are in the West associated to 'Bollywood'. Impossible to overlook, this phenomenon unites and fascinates Indians, contributes to the spread of Hindi, and conveys fashions and ideas. Although widely exported to Asia and Africa, Bollywood films are rarely released in Europe. Its stars, living gods in India, are unknown here. Europalia takes great pleasure in presenting unadulterated Bollywood: sagas, music and choreography all feature on the programme. And not only that. Because behind Bollywood, other Indian cinema hides: Kollywood, Tollywood, Mollywood and Sandalwood, each with their own distinctive regional and linguistic characteristics; plus independent cinema and art house films. India is the largest producer of films in the world. Indian cinema celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2013, yet another reason to discover and learn to appreciate it.
The Indian Diaspora is one of the largest in the world. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that it produces numerous major artists whose work is at times inspired by the traditions and flavours of their cultural heritage. India also expresses itself– sublimed or disparaged –through voices, writers, visual artists coming from England, the Netherlands, the US, Suriname, Guyana and even Belgium. What is Indian identity when one lives elsewhere? What is the sense of belonging to this county-continent? In short, what is identity? The debate is open, and the conversation will be enlarged to include voices from other Diasporas and immigrant groups present in Belgium.