A series of art traditions exploring the subject of sacred will soak the city in the coming days

Evoking the sacred is inherent in art traditions. Be it the Pithora paintings done on the walls of their houses by the Rathwa tribal community of Gujarat for wish fulfilment or Didgeridoo, the wind instrument played by the indigenous Australians in every ceremonial gathering, art practices around the globe, especially those followed by communities who live in close proximity to nature, are rooted in faith. And the platform of International Festival of Sacred Arts (IFSA) which is in its second edition this year, brings such traditions to the urban inhabitants. Elaborating on the idea behind the festival starting in New Delhi this Thursday, Jasleen Dhamija, handicraft expert and president, IFSA, says, “There are so many ways of finding yourself. It can be through meditation or dance or music, painting. There's place for everybody.”

A number of artistes pursuing myriad art forms directly or indirectly invoking the higher-self or its various manifestations, find a place in the set-up. Inspired by the Sand Mandala that he saw in the festival last year, Australian artist Richard Dunn is making ‘Labyrinth' — an ancient symbol which is a metaphor for one's journey to the inner world having special place in various faiths — on the ground using coloured pigments at Mati Ghar in IGNCA. On view will also be a big prayer wheel on which will be visible the multi-manifestations of God written in calligraphic style by Dhrupad singer Wasifuddin Dagar. Woven, dyed, printed, or embellished fabrics from Indonesia, Japan and Peru will also be on display.

“For instance, the sacred textiles of the Iban tribes of Malaysia show the linkage between the mystique and the weaving traditions. Originally, Iban were the head hunters who recreated a dream world through their textiles. These exhibitions will be a major part of the festival this year,” adds Dhamija, who is also the curator of the textile exhibition.

Through sound

The sacred will also be explored through a series of dance, music and lectures. While Grammy-nominated flautist Nawang Khechog, who is also a Buddhist monk, will present Tibetan spiritual music, David Hykes and his Harmonic Choir from New York will perform overtone singing or chanting which Dhamija describes as meditation through sound.

“We are cutting across all religions to look at creative expressions in search of the sacred,” says Dhamija. Going beyond the expected fare of Sufi songs, Dervish dance, Indian classical music and dance, IFSA is also dishing out the unusual in the forms of Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre troupe from New Zealand or the sword-dancing lamas of the Buzen Nyingma-Pa sect of Ladakh — perhaps the only monks in India who use swords and other arms in their ritual dances.

For the intelligentsia, there is a spate of lectures with people like Laura Wexler of Yale University, Prof P.S. Ramakrishnan of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Kapila Vatsyayan as speakers who would attempt to take the festival to a different level. For instance, the lecture on ‘Sacred Grove and Landscapes' will examine the groves of trees of religious importance in various cultures. India is said to have 14,000 mapped groves.

(The festival continues till March 9. For more details, visit www. sacredartsfestivaldelhi.org )