Care for the environment? Head to Hyatt Regency in the city where a 3-day fest celebrating bees is on

The atrium at Hyatt Regency is abuzz with activity — artists putting up their installations, dancers with their rehearsals, and a harried-looking group sorting out a stack of invitations, letters and press releases. Everyone is busy as a bee, and rightly so. They are getting things ready for Pollinator1, also known as ‘The Bee Festival’.

The three-day event at the hotel (August 2-4) celebrates the bee, but can’t be pigeon-holed into any category. Art, culture, music, philosophy, anthropology and science converge, as experts in these fields present the insect in a fresh and alluring light. All of them, however, are united by a common focus: emphasising the bee’s supreme status among pollinators and the environmental hazard posed by the insect’s dwindling numbers.

The event, supported by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, National Biodiversity Authority, C.P.R. Environmental Education, Science City, Asian Heritage Foundation and Hyatt Regency Chennai, is expected to be anything but uninteresting.

For one, it has all the makings of a cultural extravaganza. Around 50 installations — curated by internationally acclaimed designer and heritage warrior Rajeev Sethi — will decorate the hotel, some adding zing to the atrium floors. These works cover a wide range of presentations, best illustrated by a wildly imaginative piece of art by Andrew Logan and the whacky beehive of Vibha Galhotra.

“Logan’s work is based on the waggle dance through which bees communicate among themselves about where to go for nectar. It’s an extremely evolved form of communication,” says Sethi. With steel, glass, resin and wood, Logan has created a trail of colour as he depicts bees dancing their way to the elusive nectar in a concrete jungle.

Galhotra resorts to strong symbols of tradition to present this environmental concern — beehives made of ghungroos (anklet bells). These trinkets symbolise the effects of rampant urbanisation, a factor that works against bees.

Seeing beehives in multiple mediums around the hotel is the end of a satisfying journey for Sethi, one that began around four years ago. Then, in an abandoned building on the property where the Hyatt Regency stands now, Sethi noticed beehives hanging from the beams on the roof. Considering he was standing in the central area of the city, the discovery was surprising — worth working on. It gave birth to the theme of bees battling a hostile environment, aptly exemplified by Sethi’s own work, ‘thousand-pillared mandapam’ that graces the front porch of the hotel. A vertically suspended structure, it is made of ‘broken remnants of architectural fixtures from south Indian homes”.

Here’s part of the poem celebrating the work, penned by Sethi himself: “A hive of thousand pillars lifted by scattered pilgrims/ as bees remember the journey coming home/ Look within labyrinths of self/ as the Earth rushes to meet the Sky.”

The threat to bee populations can’t be combated through art alone and Sethi knows this. People from various disciplines should address the issue together. Pollinator1, which derives its character from music and dance by big artistes, poems and talks by well-known literary figures, speeches by doyens of the scientific community and interactions with policymakers and traditional honey tappers, is probably a good beginning.

Says Sethi, “It’s not going to be a one-off thing. Pollinator2 will take place at Hyderabad in October. And Pollinator3, sometime in the Himalayas.”

Pollinator1 kicks off today, on August 2, with Oscar-winning music composer A. R. Rahman as the guest of honour and renowned scientist M. S. Swaminathan as the keynote speaker. Other worthies include Carnatic vocalist and writer T.M. Krishna, former Governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi, chairman of the Asian Heritage Foundation Rajeev Sethi and secretary of the Tamil Nadu Agriculture Department Sandeep Saxena. Kurumba tribals, bee keepers from the Nilgiris, and the Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts will give performances. The other performer of the day is dancer Alarmel Valli. The day closes with the screening of a film on bees.

Events on Day Two (August 3)  include The Bee Symphony by Anil Srinivasan and 50 children, opening invocation by dancer Sonal Mansingh, a performance by dancer Rekha Tandon, a talk on bees by Pushpa Bhargava (founder, Anveshna), Sunitha Narain (CSE) , M. Muthuraman (from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University), Dennis Vanengelsdrop (State Apiarist for Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture) and Shankar Darshan (vice-chairman, FRLHT). Theatre performances and film screenings are also among the events for the day.

Events on Day Three (August 4) include a dance performance by Malavika Sarukkai, a special literary presentation by Sarukkai Chabbria, honey tasting by N. Swaminathan, an exposition of honey extraction and wax making by V.A. Nambi and talks by Paul Blanchflower (from Auroville Botanical Garden), Carlo Montesanti (from Bee Guardian Foundation) and Vijaya Pastala (on indigenous bee-keeping).

Screening of films, activities for children, puppet show and staging of plays are the other features of the day, which will close with a performance. 

Call Hyatt for passes to the event.