SOAS SAHM festival of 2022

'Journeys of Empire and Dispersed Diasporas'

Subrang Arts gave craft demonstrations which revealed the ‘Gujarati story of a successful migration, replete with images of labour and leisure patterns that showcased homeland Gujarat as a region shaped by the journeys of the Empire - trade, colonialism, education and skills exchanges. Warps and Wefts of Cotton yarns of Gujarat connecting cultures and communities revealed the unknown port journeys of hand-spun cotton made by skilful artisans to Africa, Europe and the Middle East. With the fabric came other exotic items like beads, mirror works and body art that are lesser-known and have shaped diasporic community engagement.

Committed to sustainability in what we eat and wear, Asha Buch demonstrated hand spinning on the Charkha box – the amazing simple wheels designed by Gandhi which enabled everyone in India to spin their own cotton. Saumya Singh demonstrated how to spin wool on the charkha; how fibres are spun into yarn. Dutch-born Erna Janine living in Gloucestershire demonstrated handloom weaving on portable looms with a variety of yarns. Mirror Embroidery, also known as sheesha and abhala-bharat was demonstrated by Priya Patel and Beadweaver Nayna Chhatralia demonstrated how to weave tiny beads into exotic items.

More than just a temporary tattoo, the mehndi demonstrated by Sonal Patel offered a way to participate in a centuries-old tradition of body art that is still practised in Gujarat and is a source for transformative indigenous design in the creative industries.

SWAR & GARBA YATRA - A Soulful Journey of Community Music

In the British diasporic context, Garba as the folk dance of Gujarat remains the critical site for festive celebration as well as a portal for social cohesion uniting the dispersed diaspora . Many found a cultural refuge in Garba that is symbolic of the journey of time -- the cycle of time revolving from birth to life to death and rebirth. Hence Garba's social appeal is rooted in weddings, feasts, and community events that celebrate 'garbha' the womb as the source of fertility, women's empowerment and more universally the vitality of cyclic life and its infinite possibilities against all odds. Garba is also the backbone of hope and the strength of communities who have survived the many journeys of migration.

This post-pandemic festival brought together such energies arising from both folk and classical and semi-classical traditions of Gujarat..Refreshing youthful renditions of both classical and blissful sugam Sangeet, Ghazals in Gujarati, represented by the versatile talent of Nirmal Joshi, Puish Kumar Engineer and Siddarth Singh on the Guitar.


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