After a dark and difficult year, light and life are the centre of celebrations this month for the Swan Festival of Lights: Reimagined with artists contributing from around the world!
In a new take on the annual celebration of the Indian holiday of Deepavali, the festival has adapted to the times and gone entirely virtual with its many colourful cultural productions brought online.
As well as a celebration of culture, the themes of Deepavali are especially relevant this year honouring light through the darkness, good triumphing over evil, and knowledge overcoming ignorance.
Organising committee member Ashwini Saseedaran said 2020 presented unique challenges to the organisers who often invited international artists to perform as well as locals, in what was also the first year of the event being youth-led.
“There were a lot of challenges and a lot of hurdles to go through, we’ve managed despite Covid to get international artists, dancers and performers to collaborate,” Ms Saseedaran said.
“The beauty of online this year is that you can actually reach more people in the world, rather than just being a Perth thing, and I think in this day and time everyone needs that.”
Taking to the digital stage, the festival will feature two past productions and two brand new ones, with contributions from local and international artists.
Performed on the Burswood Theatre stage in 2006, Vishwa Vinayaka is a vibrant dance production combining traditional and modern styles, and was launched on the festival’s platform Inspire on November 12.
Picture: Dance production Vishwa Vinayaka filmed in 2006 at the Burswood Theatre.
The epic tale of Ramayana is central to the celebration of Deepavali with its exploration of light and the cycle of life with the production I Am Ravana taking a new perspective. The production, showcased on November 13, explores the villain Ravana’s perspective as he asks the audience why they should rejoice in his death, exploring the seeking of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.
This year’s feature production was Who Am I?, filmed across metropolitan and regional WA all while expressing the central themes of darkness, empowerment and light. The film piece was made with international contributions from musical artists as well as award-winning musician and choreographer Olivier Tarpaga, a performer at previous year’s festivals, and saw its launch on November 14.
Picture: Who Am I? filmed earlier this year at WA’s iconic Pinnacles.
Organising committee member Shaan Hayes said due to the new virtual approach, organisers could take this year’s feature production in a completely new direction.
“We collaborated with artists from the US, from Africa, from India; we used editors from India as well and celebrated local artists in that one production,” Ms Hayes said.
Ms Hayes said while WA was in a good state to have in-person events, pivoting to a digital platform enabled them to reach out to people around Australia and the world who would be unable to celebrate Deepavali in the normal way because of lockdown.
Another new feature of this year’s event is the Community of Light space which sees a range of artists and professionals coming together for music and dance performances, storytelling, workshops, and even cooking classes.
The festival is hosted by the Saraswati Mahavidhyalaya and the Annalakshmi Cultural Centre of WA, and in the past has attracted more than 30,000 people to its events.
Picture: Members of the 2020 Swan Festival of Light organising committee.
Funds raised from this year’s festival, with people able to donate through the festival website, go towards the Siva Shantha Mother and Child Health Centre, based in India. The health centre supports women and children in a range of medical services including as a comprehensive maternity centre.
“It’s a spiritually inspired health care centre that helps thousands of people in need with essential care,” organising committee member Shreelekha Aravindhan said.
For more information or to watch the digital productions visit sfol.com.au.