Deepavali

Busy but productive first week, I think, managed to meet a lot of interesting people and I’m beginning to get a (very blurry) idea of how the various agencies and organisations with an interest in games and learning work with each other. What I hadn’t been prepared for, coming from the UK, was the level of acceptance that exists for the idea that games might be an appropriate media for learning: every time I’ve been braced for the usual “but aren’t games evil things that turn our children into killers?” it’s failed to take place. Which is a good thing. Interestingly, the issue of addiction has come up at every event I’ve been to (attended largely by teachers).

Most of my time has been spent in taxis, offices and shopping malls so so far. So it made a nice change to find the road outside the flat closed on Saturday for the Deepavali celebrations. Here’s three videos for a flavour of the night:

The video above was on Race Course Road, where the procession made its way before the stage on Farrer Fields fired up.

The banner on the drums said that this was the Dance Troupe of Sri Lanka. There’s only a little bit of video here, partly because there weren’t really any natural breaks in the performances and also partly because I felt like a tourist waving my camera around. If it had been my mobile (handphone) I would have fitted right in, but that would have been a waste of time as the camera’s no good for night-time.

This was closer to music I’d heard before, although I’ve never seen a crowd so up for it before: the video doesn’t really show the energy that was flying around the stage. Most of the jokes went over my head, though.

More photos in the strip above.

I went home thinking about authenticity. As a European relative of the colonials that originally established a racecourse here, watching people dance in pointy hats made me feel that I was at some kind of “cultural event”, one that only exists for the benefit of tourists like me. The event was sponsored by local government cultural agencies, which only reinforced this idea, reminding me of the kind of self-consciously inclusive London events that Ken Livingston sponsors. And yet the crowd weren’t tourists and were shouting in a way that suggested a proper connection with what was going on on stage: the dancing wasn’t polished, either. More than anything, it made me think of ceilidhs and barn dances in England: the performers and audience/participants are genuine members of the community whose art it is, but the art can only exist in a space generated especially for it: its connection with everyone’s daily life doesn’t exist without effort and the support of larger institutions. The sowing gestures of the women dancing aren’t ones I’ve seen anywhere else round here: hard to grow crops on tarmac.

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