The 2022 Indian Summer Festival celebrates its 12th year.
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Indian Summer Festival 2022
When: July 7-17
Where: Performance Works, Granville Island, 1218 Cartwright St. and Chan Centre, University of BC
“A festival for the curious mind” – is a perfect slogan for the India Summer Festival.
The annual event once again features an intriguing mix of global thinkers, artists, and those who leapfrog gender definitions in a singular leap this year. As he celebrates his 12th anniversary with a theme of inner/outer climates, art director Sirish Rao prepares for the next chapter. Both he and CEO and co-founder Laura Byspalko announced they would step down from their respective roles at the end of the year.
The duo will be attending this year’s event and are working with the festival’s board of directors on the leadership transition.
“Salman Rushdie puts it beautifully: ‘At 12 o’clock, the hands of the clock come to Namaste,’” says Rao. “Laura and I always had in mind that a decade would be a good time to dedicate yourself to something before moving on to explore something new. Then the pandemic hit and the ship needed to stabilize to sail and it felt like it was time to restart. Now, once again, we are confident that this thing is ready to walk on its own…into the future.”
Driven by the belief that there was a gap in the arts and culture landscape that reflected the dynamic and contemporary scene in South Asia, the festival was launched in 2011. Recognized as a unique and singular event in the calendar, it quickly moved abroad. and served simply as a place. find expressions of the global identity of South Asia in the following years, adopting a wide-ranging worldview.
As the festival’s statement of values clearly states: “We defend art as profound medicine. Art is a healing and transformative force. We revive the opportunities for immersion in our own cultures and those of others”.
Rao emphasizes that success came gradually, due to “following a path to get as many people as possible to think about what is, what could be, possible.” The enthusiasm with which myriad communities embraced an event that blended the intellectual and the creative rather than simply providing entertainment kept it going.
Year after year, the festival brought together iconoclasts from various communities to create new ways of seeing and collaborating within our shared world. There was nothing like it in the artistic and cultural landscape.
A perfect example of this approach can be seen at this year’s inaugural Imaginarium: Parables for a Planet in Crisis taking place on July 9, 7-9 pm at Performance Works on Granville Island.
Features Rao and award-winning indigenous broadcaster Jarrett Martineau join celebrated artists and activists like Naomi Klein, Amitav Ghosh, Robyn Maynard, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson in person and virtually to dissect the personal and political forces that shape lives and the world as they are applied to the experience of this year’s theme of Indoor/Outdoor Climates. Expect a mix of storytelling, observation, analysis, and more from the panel as they try to forecast the internal and external climate we’re all living through.
Rao says the event is a perfect window into his curatorial approach of making connections between seemingly unconnected things.
“What we have always tried to do and what we are still giving is a very loquacious, curious, but rigorous and friendly long table party,” he said. “You can expect to come and get nourished and surprise yourself by eating some things you know and some you don’t and…maybe surprised and change your perspective or change someone else’s. We firmly believe that all artists influence each other, so why not put a DJ and a poet together because they are both doing things with the construction and delivery of language?
Sometimes the languages being explored have yet to be discovered.
modern biology: An amazing musical experience that brings us closer to nature will take place on July 10 from 4-5 pm at Performance Works and features the latest project from powerhouse musician, Delhi2Dublin member and 5X Festival founder Tarun Nayar. Trained in Indian classical music and as a biologist, he has been wiring synthesizers to respond to bioelectricity from plants, electromagnetic radiation, and even the resonant hum of the Earth to improvise environmental landscapes.
sitar virtuoso Sharanjeet Singh Mand will join Nayar for this one-of-a-kind performance where listeners will be equipped with wireless headphones that allow them to move through different environments while experiencing Mand, Nayar, and the ecosystem’s soundscapes.
“Very often, there is a stereotype of South Asian people that they are colourful, eat interesting things and dance a lot,” Rao said. “But it is an extremely intellectual and active contemporary culture with a lot to offer. Events like this challenge the notion that it is an ancient culture that is ossified or museumized and that its artists are too. Similar notions also apply to indigenous cultures and are inaccurate, incorrect and deserve to be challenged.
The festival always balances the challenging with the comfortable. After all, the revered traditions of South Asia and other cultures are essential components for all of the outstanding creatives involved.
The free Sound System festival on July 10 and 17 will take place from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and will feature everything from the aforementioned sitar virtuoso Sharanjeet Singh Mand to the Surya music band shop This traditional Indian-style brass group is the only one of its kind in North America and is based in Surrey. The mix of music and dance with the delicacies of the market should be a great place to spend the summer.
Those seeking a more transformative mix of traditional and contemporary movement arts should visit Off Centre: An Exploration of Queer Identity Through Dance on July 12 from 8-10 pm at Performance Works. Created by dancer and choreographer Sujit Vaidya, whose work is rooted in the classical Bharatanatyam dance style, the piece explores queer identity within a traditional form. Choreographer and Isadora Duncan Award winner Lee Su-Feh will lead a post-show talk with Sujit.
Rao says that such performances reflect the complexity of the world we live in and, more importantly, keep it interesting. There are mythical origins in this approach.
“There is a beautiful story in Hindu mythology where Brahma creates the world in the image of his perfect and logical mind and it is absolutely perfect, but it is very boring,” says Rao. “So he sent mischievous Vishnu to stir things up and create complications here and there, and all of a sudden the gods took an interest in us and what we’re doing. I think the best we can do is complicate things as well and allow change to come out of those complications.”
From being the first to host Indian author Arundhati Roi to hosting Hindustani classical music maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia and the debut of Grammy-winning Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab on July 13 at 8 p.m. at the Chan Center, Rao says he’s leaving the Indian Summer Festival with both rich memories and a sense of excitement for what the future holds for both him and the event he helped create and nurture for over a decade.