This year was the third time I’ve participated in the Auckland Diwali Festival of Lights and I would say it’s the best one I have attended so far.
It was great seeing the festival’s energy, enthusiasm and excitement, which I believe captures the vibrancy and cultural diversity of Auckland – my home city. Even the weather gods indulged us.
I’m impressed by how this festival has grown since the Asia New Zealand Foundation launched it in 2002. I even recognised some of the young performers who had performed in previous years – they too had grown.
My thanks to all the performers who entertained us with their fascinating dances and songs, especially the Kalika Kala Kendra international Lavani dance group from Ahmednagar. Despite only having arrived in Auckland from India at 1 a.m. on Saturday morning – less than 12 hours before they were to go on stage -they enthralled us with their dazzling performance. Thanks, too, to the Indian High Commission and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations for their help in bringing them to New Zealand.
The timing of this year’s festival coincided with the political parties’ post-election negotiations, which restricted the participation of some politicians at the event. However, my conversations with Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern and National MP Melissa Lee, who were able to attend, gave me the impression they were pleased to have been able to witness first-hand again what an amazing contribution the Indian community makes to the city.
My offer and ‘ask’
I’d like to repeat my ‘offer’ and ‘ask’, which I made during the Diwali opening ceremony last Saturday. My ‘offer’ is two return flights to Singapore courtesy of our friends from Air New Zealand. All you need to do is post, gram or snap a Diwali themed photo or video on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat using the hashtag #DIWALINZ and you will be in to win. Entries close on 31 October, and more details about this competition are on our website - www.asianz.org.nz
Like the Lantern Festival, we have seen how this cultural event has gone from strength to strength. When we started this in 2002, we were worried that no one would turn up. But now we see tens of thousands flocking to Aotea Square and Queen Street.
However, Diwali now is no longer a celebration for just New Zealand’s Indian community – it’s an event for all New Zealanders. And rightly so my ‘ask’ is that we grow the Diwali celebration even more. You can help do that by asking your friends, neighbours and work colleagues who may not have experienced Diwali to come and join you at future Diwali celebrations.
I encourage Indian New Zealanders to continue to nurture and grow their wonderful cultural heritage and ensure this is not lost, especially among your children and your children’s children. Maintenance and awareness of this beautiful culture will be an asset for them and for New Zealand in the future.
Simon Draper is the Executive Director of the Asia New Zealand Foundation