SAARC cultural festival: From fusion music to glitzy fashion and more
Friday, 14 December 2007

SAARC cultural festival: From fusion music to glitzy fashion and more
Designs by Mina Sherzoy and Rina Latif
From trendy fusion music to glitzy fashion and food, fascinating folklore to a car rally, photo exhibition and crafts -- the recently concluded South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) cultural festival in New Delhi showcased them all.

Food Festival
The Ashoka Hotel reverberated with activity at the inauguration of the SAARC food festival as chefs from the eight member countries -- India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Afghanistan -- unleashed their culinary delights for visiting dignitaries. From the mouth watering Afghan tandoori chicken to Bhutanese red rice and Maldivian tuna to Pakistani Kadai Gosht, the host country of India offered gourmets a taste of Murgh Rehana and Paneer Sidampukht, a cottage cheese dish in gravy.

The Bangladesh stall was managed by entrepreneur and celebrity chef Tommy Miah. His offerings to the guests included a jackfruit chutney, shorshey chutney and Bengal green chicken. Behind all the glitz and glamour, there is a mission behind such a festival devoted to cuisine, says Tommy, pointing to the misconceived popular image of Bangladesh as a land of floods and poverty. As he points out, “At every opportunity I try to project the positive side of the country.”

Tommy, attired in the colours of the Bangladesh flag, builds bridges with other South Asian countries through his delectable fusion dishes. “I have a fusion style of cooking, where the techniques of different countries or areas are brought together to produce unique combinations and flavours,” he asserts.

In the view of the erudite Dr Karan Singh, Rajya Sabha member and president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) which organised the event in tandem with the Indian Tourist Development Corporation, “This is a unique festival as it is the first time chefs from seven other South Asian countries have come together to present authentic food from their respective countries.”

Another accolade comes from the sociable Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh. “The greater the familiarity between member nations, the better for SAARC.”

The food festival was inaugurated by Pranab Mukherjee, Indian Minister of External Affairs. While the inaugural day was attended by dignitaries from member countries, the festival was thrown open to the general public on subsequent days.

Fashion show
Wine and cheese greeted visitors at the SAARC fashion show, aptly named 'Threads of Unity', held in the plush environs of the Maurya Hotel. The evening was truly stunning as models walked down the ramp attired in traditional and contemporary outfits. “The collection captures the rich cultural heritage, textile traditions and indigenous handicrafts and embroideries that are distinct to each of the SAARC nations,” says a press release.

The show stealers were the creations of designers Ritu Kumar from India and Mina Sherzoy of Afghanistan. The former said that her work showcased “the couture and bridal collection using the finest of crafts skills which the designer has revived across the weaving, embroidery and printing guilds from the Indian subcontinent.” The occasion, as she pointed out, celebrated the textiles of India, which are “embellished by approximately 16 million practicing craftspeople of the subcontinent.”

Representing the SAARC nations were 12 designers. Bangladesh was well represented by the talented Rina Latif and Nasrine R Karim. The former attracted attention with her ethnic creations -- mostly ghararas and saris. Local fabrics such as muslin, she says, are her forte. She has also used silk, chantilly lace, local embroidery. “Tapestry is my signature line,” she points out.

Meanwhile, Nasrine brought three design labels together for the show: her own Dia and Sozodor and By Deshi. “I showcase typical jamdani and hand-woven fabrics of Bangladesh,” she says. Altogether there were 10 outfits – saris, cocktail evening dresses, sherwanis and also western apparel made of Chittagong Hill Tract weaves. The latter were designed by the upcoming young duo from Sozodor -- Symon and Tenzing Chakma.

The well-organised show had great music and choreography. Making waves was the highflying Media Makers, a Delhi-based creative unit that handles choreography. Says Asha Kochhar, one of the two partners of the organisation, “Our USP is blending a diversity of cultures through a holistic approach and showcasing the unity of all nations.”

The superb programme was organised by the Fashion Design Council of India in collaboration with the Union Ministry for External Affairs and ICCR.


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