Thursday, March 23, 2017

Reflections: Nowrooz Celebration and Exhibition of Afghan Culture

This year, I had the pleasure of attending Nowrooz Celebration and Exhibition of Afghan Culture hosted by the Pluralist Community at Noor Cultural Centre. This was my second visit to the Noor Cultural Centre (the first had been in 2013, for my own performance at the Intercultural Diversity Festival which had taken place exactly a week before my PhD defense! I remember at the time, several of my friends and family were asking me how I continued to actively perform professionally while finishing my dissertation and defense at final stages!). This was my first time returning to the Centre, three years after the completion of my PhD, in a much more relaxed time, and in celebration of Nowrooz.

The evening was filled with delicious food, sights and colours, between which I got a chance to engage in a few conversations. I most especially looked forward to the cultural performances, and throughout the evening I caught several beautiful performances.

The cultural events of the evening opened with a group vocal rendition by several young ladies, singing the traditional wheat-pudding stirring song "Samanak." They were all attired in their traditional outfits, and three beautiful ladies sitting at centre sang solo sections within the song.

There were recitations of poetry, in both Farsi and English, of the legendary Rumi, who was born in Balkh (in either Afghanistan or greater Bakh  in present-day Tajikistan - the exact location of his birthplace remains debated). This was followed by a Sama generously hosted by the Sufi Cultural Centre of Toronto. The whole room went into stillness as the musicians began, and a few minutes later, the whirlers entered and bowed to each other and then began the Sema.  This is a photograph  I managed to capture on my cellphone from this moving performance.

Sema at Noor Cultural Centre, generously hosted by Sufi Cultural Centre of Toronto
March 18, 2017

This had been the first time since my trip to Turkey in 2015 that I had the opportunity to witness Sema, complete with live music. During the 2015 dance study sojourn to Turkey (gratitude to Canada Council for the Arts), during the Istanbul stay, Hasan Evren, an excellent folk dancer, dance teacher and davul performer, and also friend and former colleague of Toronto-based Artistic Director Fethi Karakacili, had taken us to Darvish Cafe. Here is a photo I had taken back then.

Darwish Cafe, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, 2015

At the Pluralist Nowrooz Exhibition, I also enjoyed a beautiful poem in English, filled with imagery, on Afghanistan, by a young poetess who recited her own poetry. I believe her name was Mozghan. There was also a dance performance done by four energetic young performers who had everyone cheering and clapping along!

I was also very engaged by a Dombura performance by a young gentleman. I did not catch his name. I am quickly beginning to gain a deep appreciation of this instrument, and hope to hear more of this young artist soon.

Throughout the evening, I had the opportunity to see some beautiful traditional dresses and headwear, and I took a few photos. Below is a Hazaragi headddress from Bamyan, Central Afghanistan.

The evening ended with a fashion show, with beautiful traditional costumes and jewellery. I captured this photo of the models in their outfits when they posed in front of the photo wall prior to the fashion show itself. 

A wonderful evening of rich colours, music, dance, poetry and food..I truly enjoyed it! 

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