Parramasala is a key festival, organised by the NSW Government. Held in Parramatta, the heart of Western Sydney, it is in its fifth year. Starting out as an Australian festival of South Asian arts and culture, it is now very multicultural. Performances include those from the cultures of South America, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East and Europe, besides the Indian subcontinent.
According to the Parramasala organisers, 44 per cent of the performances are from the Indian subcontinent backgrounds, and 36 per cent of these are from India, while the other 56 per cent are from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds. There are more than 20 nationalities and cultures represented at Parramasala 2014. Importantly, 96 per cent of the Parramasala performances are free events, which is impressive and commendable.
While Parramatta precincts, especially Prince Alfred Park and Riverside Theatre, will continue to be the centre of the festival, Harris Park, the Little India of Sydney, will be included for the first time. Harris Park Bollywood Block “Curry On” party on Saturday, 18 October, will have a parade, cultural performances from a stage in the roundabout of Wigram and Marion Streets, and food carts, serving delicacies by popular restaurants of Harris Park. This should definitely be an added attraction for those attending Parramasala.
The Parramasala board is ably chaired by Dr Harry Harinath and steered by Di Henry, an internationally renowned producer and director of events, exhibitions, operations, media campaigns and marketing. It is in able and competent hands, and can’t go wrong.
Looking at the program list, one cannot but admire the variety and quality. Whether you like street parades, Bollywood performances, Indian cultural dances, comedy, Flamenco dances, Belly dances, Kurdish music, African performances or Pacific Island dances, Parramasala has it all. Really, what more can one ask for from a festival?
Shiamak Davar group will be performing, and a Qawwali event is included too. Popular drama “Kanjoos” (Miser), directed by talented Saba Zaidi Abdi is part of it too.
The South Asian Film component will showcase talent from South Asian film professionals.
It is clear that Parramasala 2014 is bigger and definitely better than before.
Organized by Destination NSW, and Partnered by Parramatta Council, Parramasala is destined to achieve its due place in the cultural calendar of NSW.
That Parramasala is an important event for the Indian sub-continent community was evidenced by some social media commentary about who was invited and who was not invited for the launch of Parramasala at Harris Park on 27 August, 2014.
Its importance was further established when two Indian community newspapers had a debate over the festival. I don’t intend to comment about any controversy, nor do I want to take sides in a slanging match.
I will, however, say this: Parramasala is essentially a Govt of NSW event, supported by the Parramatta Council. They do have the right to select the board and the program director. They are the ones who have the rightful authority to organise it the way they want to do it. Parramasala is neither a pure nor an exclusively Indian sub-continental event. It is much beyond that, and it must stay that way.
While it is always important to be inclusive and consult as many stake-holders and interested parties as possible, it is never going to be possible to consult everyone who might consider themselves stake-holders. In any case the Parramasala board is accessible to all who wish to be heard; we can write to them or call them with our suggestions and feedback.
Similarly, it is never going to be possible to invite everyone for any event. Parramasala is no exception. Parramasala cannot invite every single South Asian business in Sydney (there are reportedly thousands of South Asian businesses); nor is it practical for all the community groups and associations to be invited for key events. We need to be pragmatic and realistic.
We need to see the bigger picture.
If I have to say anything more on it, I will say that Parramasala Board should make a list of people it should consult and a list of people it should invite for key events. This list should be based on some objective parameters, not the “liking” or “disliking” of some of the people who are associated with Parramasala. Networking ability and reach in the community should probably be part of such parameters. I could not quite understand why talented film professional Ana Tiwary was not invited. After all, Ana works with ABC, and in fact her acclaimed documentary on Indian students was screened in Parramasala last year. There is definitely scope for fine-tuning the networking and invitation lists for any Govt-assisted or organised event, using objective criterion.
Parramasala was initially launched by NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, in 2010, soon after the Indian student issue had made headlines in India and Australia, and just a few months before the NSW state election in March 2011. It attracted a lot of attention, especially from the Indian sub-continental communities. The media too covered it prominently. There was, however, some uncertainty about its continuation last year, until the NSW Govt finally decided to continue funding it. In fact, the launch of Parramasala last year was quite disorganised, and even the Parramatta Mayor, John Chedid, was not in the loop, solely due to politics of people who pulled strings in the previous NSW Govt. John Chedid has been a strong supporter of Parramasala in general, and a strong protagonist in taking part of Parramasala to Harris Park. I might add here that most of the members from the Parramatta Mayor’s advisory committee (myself included) on Parramasala were not even aware of the launch last year. “Favoritism” was the only criterion for last year’s launch invitations. It was childish, and not a smart move by any means.
Parramasala, which started out as a festival of South Asian arts and culture as its focus, has now become a truly multicultural event. Even though it is not a necessarily bad move, I believe South Asia must continue to be its focus. I suggest that efforts must be made to have at least 60 per cent of the performances from South Asian background.
Parramasala has all the ingredients of a truly popular festival in a successful multicultural state like NSW, if we all work together. Taking the cue from what Prime Minister Tony Abbott said recently, we all need to be part of “Team NSW for Parramasala” led by the Premier and Chair of Board of Parramasala. “Team NSW for Parramasala” obviously will include NSW Govt led by Premier Mike Baird, Destination NSW, Community Relations Commission, Indian sub-continent communities and sub-continental media.
May I also suggest to members of the Indian sub-continent community and the media to not worry about what Parramasala is giving them personally, but ask what they are giving to Parramasala to make it the most successful event this year and beyond?
If I were running Parramasala, or had the ears of Parramasala Board, and they were listening to me, I will do everything to ask as many people of the Indian sub-continent community and the media, and supporters of multiculturalism in NSW, to join the campaign to not only promote it through their social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but also to make sure they attend the event from 17-19 October, 2014.
The Parramasala logo will be in my profile picture on Facebook and Twitter, starting 10 October. I urge everyone in my network, and in my friends’ network, to do something similar to get the word out.
Parramasala is a festival for me, my family and friends, and I, like them, will be attending, and promoting, it with enthusiasm.
Published in Indian Sun news magazine http://www.theindiansun.com.au/parramasala-2014-politics-and-beyond/
Dr Yadu Singh is a Sydney based cardiologist and the President of Indian Australian Association of NSW. He is an active member of the community. He is also active in social media and writes regularly in his Blog http://www.yadusingh.wordpress.com More details of Parramasala: http://www.parramasala.com