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India’s Surajkund Mela an arts paradise

Victoria Falls-based Simunye Arts Ensemble performs at the Surajkund International Crafts Mela in Haryana, India, last week.

By Kennedy Nyavaya in HARYANA, India

Experiencing the ongoing Surajkund International Crafts Mela (Fair) in India’s Haryana State can be a life-changing moment for a foreign artiste on a first time jaunt as it presents an entirely different perspective to life.

For an African craftsperson, particularly a Zimbabwean, being at this show can be an ironic cultural shock just as much as it is an interesting frontier to widen their work’s reach.

In February every year, for the past 33 years, over a million indigenous and foreign people reportedly visit the 40-acre exhibition park, which has more than 1 010 stands and several stages for live performances.

This spells a financial boon for artistes especially those coming from the African continent and India’s rural folk as their unique work is appreciated for its true worth despite the natives’ penchant for bargaining.

Testament to this is a cultural troupe, which consists of a cultural dance group and a wire craft artiste, currently representing Zimbabwe at the fair this year courtesy of India’s embassy in Harare in partnership with the Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation ministry.

Locals — dance group Simunye Arts Ensemble and wire craft artist Stewart Mauzinyu — are elated with the opportunity to showcase their talents in Haryana’s Faridabad district, which is home to almost two million people of Haryana’s near-30 million residents.

This is an opportunity for them to not only exploit the endless financial possibilities here, but proudly represent their culture to the Indian community, according to head of delegation and government representative Spiwe Jiri.

“The fair exposes a lot in the arts and creative industry that includes cultural and contemporary all housed in one place, for our country this helps in cultural integration and exposure of our local artistes in search of new markets for their products,” said Jiri.

True to her sentiments, the event, which ends on February 17, is a colourful culture mix consisting mostly of handmade artwork including fine arts, fashion, design and vast performances such as dance as well as music.

For Mauzinyu, the chance to step foot at the Mela has brought considerable fortunes as he has had to review prices upwards after the pieces became a hit among attendants.

“I am extremely happy with the rate at which my pieces are being bought and as someone who had never travelled this far to sell my art, this is surely a great market, even better than some places where my work has been sold,” said Mauzinyu.

Not to be outdone is Victoria Falls’s Simunye, whose dances have mesmerised revellers compelling some to extend rupee notes out of excitement.

“We are impressed by what we have seen as the week has progressed,” the group’s leader Misheck Muponda told The Standard Style.

“People here are very appreciative of what we are doing if you compare with groups from other countries and cultures.”

He also added that they were using the trip to network as well as learn from other troupes.

Meanwhile, somewhere between the booming businesses, energetic dance movements and melodies from drums fused with flutes lies herein a life-changing opportunity one can only discover by exploring this Mela.

The thought of travelling thousands of kilometres to stock a stand here could be too much of a financial burden for a Zimbabwean artiste, but the sacrifice is ostensibly worth it.

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