All systems go for Festival of Lights

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Johannesburg - Its all systems go for the annual Newtown Diwali Festival which promises a fun-filled programme of dance, music and competitions.

On Saturday, 3 October, Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown will be transformed into a splendid cultural and entertainment cauldron ahead of the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu new year, which is on 18 October.

Jayesperi Moopen, the festival's programme director, invites people of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds to taste the best of Indian culture and cuisine, reports

Diwali is to Hindus what Christmas is to Christians, she explains. "It's a festival of joy ... This year's [Gauteng] festival will be unique and will have a complete South African flavour, featuring some of the best artists in Gauteng."

Several Indian dance groups will perform contemporary and traditional Indian dances, among them the Benoni Tamil School Board, Hindu Cultural League, Institute of Indian Art and Culture, India Club and Midrand School of Music.

"There will be two dance competitions: a Bollywood competition hosted by Eastern Mosaic and ZEE TV will host a solo competition. The winners of the two competitions will win a trip to India.

"There will also be hip-hop music and dance. We try and make the festival as inclusive as possible," said Moopen.

The popular Diski Dance troupe will perform its hot new diski dance, the 2010 FIFA World Cup dance style, comprising a series of choreographed football moves.

Top musicians will be belting out Bollywood hits on the main stage - but this will not be the only main attraction of the day. Stilt walkers, jugglers and balloon sculptors will be all over the square entertaining children.

Sutra magazine will be at the festival and Indian beauties will be strutting their stuff on an "exclusive ramp". There will be photo shoots for the Face of Sutra, with a cover shoot for the magazine to be won.

And, of course, there will be plenty of spicy Indian food. "There will be lots and lots of food, with over 50 stalls offering a variety of Indian dishes. However, because it's a religious celebration, there will only be vegetarian food on offer."

A rangoli competition will be held, involving drawing bright rangoli patterns to encourage Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth to enter. A rangoli is a colourful design drawn on the floor near the entrance to a house to welcome guests.

Entries must be submitted at the Rangoli Competition Stall on the day before 12.30pm.

And in true Diwali style, there will be a spectacular fireworks display at 8.30pm, followed by a bhangra after party, hosted by top Lotus FM radio personalities.

"We want everybody to come and be happy. We want people to celebrate and support this major event on the Hindu calendar. We also want to make the event a celebration of our similarities rather than our differences," Moopen said.

Entrance is free to the Gauteng Diwali Festival, which is hosted by the Gauteng Region of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and the Tamil Federation of Gauteng with the support of the City of Johannesburg, First National Bank and Business and Arts South Africa.