Month-long Indian festival in S Africa starts with exhibition

Johannesburg: A digital exhibition featuring the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela as two of the greatest leaders of the past century has kicked off a month- long Indian festival here today that will celebrate the strong bonds between India and South Africa.

Hosted jointly by the South African Ministry of Arts and Culture and the Indian High Commission, the festival will see various Indian arts and cultural activities being taken beyond the major cities of the country, as has largely been the case in the past with visiting Indian artists.

"It marks several things ? the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi`s return to India; 20 years of democracy in South Africa and 20 years of relations with India; and of course the birthday of the father of the nation, Nelson Mandela," said Virendra Gupta, India`s High Commissioner to South Africa.

"Gandhiji`s 20 years in South Africa fighting oppression here led to his Satyagraha principles which he took right back to India to energise the freedom struggle there," he said.

He said the aim of the festival is "to celebrate with this strong bonds between India and South Africa which are underpinned by the two tallest individuals that we have seen".

The Exhibition is being put up at Constitutional Hill, which was formerly a notorious prison where both Gandhi and Mandela had been jailed.

20 school children will be brought from India to participate in discussion based on the exhibition with hundreds of local pupils.

The next phase of the Festival involves the opening of a Garden of Remembrance at Tolstoy Farm, where Gandhi established a self-sufficient commune during his tenure in Johannesburg.

Long-term plans for the revival of the now derelict area are under discussion with local community organisations.

Other events during the festival will include an exhibition on the monuments of India, a cricket exhibition match, three dance groups from India showing the evolution of the art form in India, besides a film festival and musical performances.

South African Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Rejoice Mabudafhasi echoed Gupta`s sentiments about the special relationship with India.

"The Festival we are launching today is part of the agreement that we would host reciprocal festivals in each other`s countries," the minister said as she thanked the High Commission for taking the festival to rural areas as well.

"That is real cooperation, as even those in rural areas will be able to participate," she said.

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