Entertainment Local

Jewels of culture crown Indian Summer Festival

By Zoe Grams

Arundhati  Roy will be a part of the Indian Summer Festival as part of a speaking engagement on June 26. (Mayank Austen Soofi Photo)

Arundhati Roy will be a part of the Indian Summer Festival as part of a speaking engagement on June 26. (Mayank Austen Soofi Photo)

Since Indian Summer Festival launched seven years ago, the event has gained a reputation for bringing some of the finest minds — and conversations — from across the globe to Vancouver.

The festival's tagline is “Where Worlds Meet”, an appropriate reminder of the multicultural, multifaceted nature of their programming which runs from July 6 to 15 at venues across the city. Things kick off with the official opening gala on July 6.

Every year this stunning opening is a who’s who of fierce minds in gorgeous outfits. This year’s accompanying food comes from restaurants such as Vij’s, Blue Water Café, Bauhaus and Jamjar, in addition to Tayybeh: a collection of Syrian chefs creating home-style specialties from their country.

Prior to its official opening, Indian Summer Festival offers an additional event in association with the Vancouver Writers Fest, the opportunity to hear from one of the world’s most sensational literary figures, Arundhati Roy, who speaks on June 26.

The publication of The God of Small Things 20 years ago reverberated across the political and literary spheres. A first time author, Roy was catapulted to world fame, winning The Man Booker Prize, selling rights to the book in dozens of countries, and was even named one of the world’s most beautiful people by People magazine.

She was also critiqued and vilified for her opinions and activism. Despite this, Roy has continued to be a spokesperson against oppression, environmental devastation and social segregation ever since.

Now, two decades later, her second book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, is one of the most discussed books of recent years. Introduced by another inimitable author, Naomi Klein, Roy will discuss this latest work, its creation process, and her truly remarkable life to date.

Many highlights of the July festival also focus on literary traditions (and their transformation).

At the beginning of the 15th century, 15,000 languages were in use around the world. Now, that number is less than half. Professor Anvita Abbi is a noted linguist whose many achievements include working closely with the Haida nation to document and preserve the language.

In a fascinating, galvanizing lecture on July 13, Abbi shares the devastating effects of losing language—one of which dies every 14 days—and offers practical suggestions for their continuation.

On July 14, storyteller and blues singer Arthur Flowers shares a blues-based jam performance that recounts the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The multifaceted, highly original performance was developed in collaboration with Manu Chitrakar, a painter from Bengal. The result is a deeply moving celebration of King’s life, as shared through singing, poetry and even a little magic.

For culture vultures looking for experiences outside of auditoriums, Indian Summer offers a range of experiences, too. City residents can deepen their understanding of two of the most intriguing cultural hubs of Vancouver with a Saturday walking tour that explore Chinatown and Punjabi Market with expert guides that offer insight into the history of each hub — from the heritage architecture to the characters that graced them — and a glimpse at their potential future in the light of urban change.

Meanwhile, Bhajju Shyam is this year’s Indian Summer Festival artist-in-residence. His world-renowned artwork is clearly influenced by a childhood in rural India, using bright yet earth-like colours to depict fantastical creatures and the natural world with humour, curiosity and adventurousness.

During Indian Summer Festival, he will paint his creations atop photos of Vancouver cityscapes, filling the streets with beings from modern and traditional stories. He will be ‘live painting’ three times during the festival, in addition to a public exhibition.

For further information about these events, and more, or to book tickets, visit IndianSummerFestival.ca.