Cultural festival marks Indian Heritage Centre opening

ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: Jewellery on display at the Indian Heritage Centre. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: Jewellery on display at the Indian Heritage Centre. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: Documents on display at the Indian Heritage Centre. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: Documents on display at the Indian Heritage Centre. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: The Social and Political Awakening of Indians in Singapore and Malaya gallery at the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) during a preview on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: The Social and Political Awakening of Indians in Singapore and Malaya gallery at the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) during a preview on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: The Making of the Nation: Contributions of Indians in Singapore gallery at the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) during a preview on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: The Making of the Nation: Contributions of Indians in Singapore gallery at the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) during a preview on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: A two-storey glazed ceramic tile mosque facade from Multan, Pakistan, dating back to the 1890s, pictured on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: A two-storey glazed ceramic tile mosque facade from Multan, Pakistan, dating back to the 1890s, pictured on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: The Social and Political Awakening of Indians in Singapore and Malaya gallery at the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) during a preview on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: The Social and Political Awakening of Indians in Singapore and Malaya gallery at the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) during a preview on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: The Roots and Routes: Origins and Migration gallery at the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) during a preview on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: The Roots and Routes: Origins and Migration gallery at the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) during a preview on April 22, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
The Indian Heritage Centre, the first museum dedicated to the South Asian community, opens here this week. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
The Indian Heritage Centre, the first museum dedicated to the South Asian community, opens here this week. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: A 7th century bronze miniature shrine roof (above) from Kedah in Malaysia and a gold thali or wedding pendant circa late 19th to early 20th century, most likely from Trichy, Tamil Nadu. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: A 7th century bronze miniature shrine roof (above) from Kedah in Malaysia and a gold thali or wedding pendant circa late 19th to early 20th century, most likely from Trichy, Tamil Nadu. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: An interesting choli or blouse made of woven jamdani cotton from Nepal circa 20th century. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: An interesting choli or blouse made of woven jamdani cotton from Nepal circa 20th century. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: Chola bronze figures of the divine couple Shiva and Parvati from Tamil Nadu. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: Chola bronze figures of the divine couple Shiva and Parvati from Tamil Nadu. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: A 7th century bronze miniature shrine roof from Kedah in Malaysia and a gold thali or wedding pendant (above) circa late 19th to early 20th century, most likely from Trichy, Tamil Nadu. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: A 7th century bronze miniature shrine roof from Kedah in Malaysia and a gold thali or wedding pendant (above) circa late 19th to early 20th century, most likely from Trichy, Tamil Nadu. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: This intricate gold necklace circa early 20th century originates from Kerala, South India. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
ARTEFACTS ON SHOW: This intricate gold necklace circa early 20th century originates from Kerala, South India. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
Centre director Gauri Krishnan (above) says cultural traditions and popular culture will be featured at the CultureFest. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
Centre director Gauri Krishnan (above) says cultural traditions and popular culture will be featured at the CultureFest. -- ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH
Among the five galleries at the new Indian Heritage Centre is Roots And Routes: Origins And Migration (above). -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Among the five galleries at the new Indian Heritage Centre is Roots And Routes: Origins And Migration (above). -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

A cultural festival featuring various Indian art forms marks the opening of the Indian Heritage Centre

The new Indian Heritage Centre will mark its opening with a month-long cultural festival that celebrates the diversity of Indian art forms.

On Thursday, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong opens the centre, about 70 dancers from various dance schools in Singapore will perform on the narrow steps of the elegant four-storey centre in Campbell Lane, opposite Little India Arcade.

Walking Life! through the baoli or narrow steps where the dancers will perform, the centre's director, Dr Gauri Krishnan, says the steps were inspired by traditional Indian stepwells and are a way of connecting the facade to the building.

The idea of using them for a dance presentation is to feature every space of the purpose-built centre which has five permanent galleries spread over 3,000 sqm.

Invited guests will get to see a showcase of different classical Indian dance forms including Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kathak and Mohiniattam.

The CultureFest brings together the best of the performing arts, theatre, dance and popular culture, including a rock concert.

Popular Bollywood singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan kick-started the festival with a sell-out weekend concert at the Esplanade last Saturday.

Dr Krishnan, 51, says: "We felt it was important that popular culture is not missed out. We have tried to present many events that cut across various themes such as traditional arts and crafts, games, trades and food. We also want to cover the cultural traditions of many regions in India."

Among those invited to participate in the inaugural edition of CultureFest is celebrated Singapore-based classical Indian dancer Gayatri Sriram.

Dancers from her school in Singapore, Shruti Laya School of Dance, will be part of the opening act.

Sriram herself will be performing with other dance luminaries such as Santha Bhaskar, 75, artistic director and choreographer of Bhaskar's Arts Academy, at the Victoria Concert Hall on Saturday.

Sriram, 42, says: "This is such a wonderful community effort and the centre is a fantastic showcase of how Indians have contributed to Singapore.

"It is an honour to be part of a festival that is well thought through. It has not only reached out to the various Indian dance schools in Singapore, but also put in incredible effort to choreograph what promises to be a spectacular opening act."

Backed by the National Heritage Board, the centre cost $16 million to build and gallery outfitting works cost $5 million. The building is the culmination of nearly seven years of work and is the newest addition to Singapore's heritage landscape.

The more than 440 artefacts on show - which have been acquired or donated or are on loan - trace the roots of Singapore's Indian community and its links to the global diaspora.

There are exquisite temple jewellery, stone sculptures, costumes and wood carvings as well as vintage suitcases tracking the first journeys of Indian immigrants.

The centre is divided into sections. The first two track the early interactions between South Asia and South-east Asia and the movement of Indians from the 19th to 21st centuries.

The third section chronicles the contributions of early Indians in Singapore and Malaya. The fourth showcases the political awakening of Indians in Singapore.

And the fifth section highlights the contributions of Indians in Singapore from the late 1950s to the 1980s.

Dr Krishnan approached theatre veterans Daisy Irani and Subin Subaiah to explore interesting and different ways to bring history alive.

The acting couple will be ending the CultureFest with a production titled We Are Like This Only, Too on May 30 and 31 at the centre.

They will guide visitors through the galleries using elements of theatre. Expect to get up close with the actors and a whole lot of laughs as they interpret the stories in a theatrical way.

Irani, 55, says: "We have a lot to be proud of as you can tell from the displays. Subin and I will be reprising our popular theatre roles and providing a tongue-in-cheek tour of the space.

"We want visitors to get excited about our shared stories and leave on a high as we walk them through the storyline presented here."

Public relations professional Mansi Maheshwari Patel, 30, is looking forward to the opening of the centre.

She says: "I know the centre is going to be my second home. I attended Shankar Mahadevan's curtain-raiser concert last Saturday and if that was a preview of what the centre has to offer, I am sold."

deepikas@sph.com.sg


Culturefest highlights

1. Vizhuthugal, Vizhunthom Yezhunthom (The Roots)

The original hour-long Tamil theatre production by Blacspice Media aims to revive Tamil street theatre in Singapore. The production uses live percussion, music, drama and dance to present the migration of Indians to Singapore and their contributions to the arts. Blacspice Media, headed by creative director Saleem Hadi, won the 2008 Distinguished Community Documentary Award in Cannes for its short film titled Take (2008), about people living in Singapore and their views on death.

Where: Campbell Lane, outside the Indian Heritage Centre

When: Friday, 7.30pm

Admission: Free

2. Street Carnival: art and crafts

Campbell Lane will come alive with this colourful presentation of Indian arts and crafts. Create giant Rangolis, which are drawings on the floor done using a mix of materials including coloured rice, dry flour, coloured sand and flower petals, or get a quick makeover at the sari and turban tying stations.

Where: Indian Heritage Centre

When: Friday to Sunday, 4 - 9pm (Friday), 11am-9pm (Saturday and Sunday)

Admission: Free

3. Jing-Jak Theatre

Theatre group AK Theatre presents Jing-Jak, an interactive theatre production for children featuring the age-old art of Indian puppetry in musical theatre. It tells the story of three friends: Radin Mas, a princess; Jak, a boy turned horse; and Jing, a sad, chubby peacock. Using traditional art forms of Poi Kaal Kuthirai (horse dance) and Mayilaatam (peacock dance), the story of friendship and the importance of inner beauty is celebrated in this fun-filled Tamil play.

Where: Special Exhibitions Room, Indian Heritage Centre

When: Saturday, 11am and 3pm

Admission: Free

Info: For children aged four and older

4. Natya Darpana, a classical Indian dance showcase

The original performance uses classical Indian dance to portray the various Indian festivals celebrated in Singapore. It features several of the country's leading Bharatanatyam dance schools, choreographers and dancers, such as Gayatri Sriram.

Where: Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall

When: Saturday, 7pm

Admission: $10 via Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

5. Dina Raga Malika, a classical Indian music showcase

Indian ragas or melodies are associated with different times of the day or seasons. Classical musicians will present Carnatic and Hindustani styles of music, bringing together elements from the north and south of India. The showcase features vocal and instrumental music, including various musical instruments such as string instruments veena and sitar, together with the flute and tabla.

Where: Special Exhibitions Room, Indian Heritage Centre

When: May 15, 7pm, evening ragas; May 16, 4pm, afternoon ragas; May 17, 10am, morning ragas

Admission: Free

6. Street Carnival: Traditional Trades

Travel back in time and see traditional Indian traders in action. Get your fortunes read by a parrot astrologer or buy some fresh curd and milk from a milk seller.

Where: Indian Heritage Centre

When: May 15 to 17, 11am-9pm

Admission: Free

7. DIY Indian games

Learn all about traditional Indian games and create game boards, decorating them in traditional Indian folk art styles of Madhubani and Warli painting.

Where: Activity Room, Indian Heritage Centre

When: May 16, 10am - 1pm

Admission: Free. Places are limited. E-mail NHB_IHC@nhb.gov.sg to register

8. Perfume-making Workshop

India has been the heart of The Perfume Route, with a 5,000-year-old distillation vessel found in the Indus Valley. Learn the basic techniques of perfume-making and take a unique scent home.

Where: Activity Room, Indian Heritage Centre

When: May 17, 10am - 1pm

Admission: Free. Places are limited. E-mail NHB_IHC@nhb.gov.sg to register

9. Comedy With Kumar

In this stand-up comedy performance, entertainer Kumar touches on themes and issues pertinent to Singapore's Indian community.

Where: Activity Room, Indian Heritage Centre

When: May 22, 7.30 - 8.30pm

Admission: Free

10. Folktales Of India For Kids

Storyteller Kamini Ramachandran takes children on a colourful journey into the world of Indian gods and ancient animal tales.

Where: Special Exhibitions Room, Indian Heritage Centre

When: May 23, 11am and 4pm

Admission: Free

Info: For children aged four to eight

11. In Fusion With Divine Sutra

Rock out with home-grown Indian fusion band Divine Sutra (with singer Julius Venugopal). The outdoor concert will feature covers of English and Tamil hit songs as well as original tracks from the band's upcoming album, Tales Of Neela Dey.

Where: Campbell Lane, Indian Heritage Centre

When: May 23, 7.30pm

Admission: Free

12. Garba Performance

Garba is a traditional folk dance performed at festivals by the Gujarati community. It is usually performed barefoot. Thirty-five dancers from the Singapore Gujarati Society will present a specially choreographed performance.

Where: Indian Heritage Centre

When: May 29, 7.30 - 9.30 pm

Admission: Free

13. We Are Like This Only, Too

Time to go under one roof with thespian couple Daisy Irani and Subin Subaiah. Their HuM Theatre presents an entertaining and original production that will take visitors through the Indian Heritage Centre featuring humorous stories and characters inspired by those seen in the curated exhibitions.

Where: Indian Heritage Centre Galleries

When: May 30, 7.30 pm, May 31, 1pm

Admission: Free. E-mail NHB_IHC@nhb.gov.sg to register