Despite the presence of a Lavani cultural group from Maharashtra and thousands of people enjoying the extensive and exquisite Indian cuisine at food stalls set up throughout the Aotea Square and parts of Queen Street, Auckland Diwali 2017 failed to impress.
That was at least the case at the so-called inauguration ceremony on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at Aotea Square in CBD.
In the absence of Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy (she was reported sick), Bill English (he is now Prime Minister-in-waiting) and National MPs of Indian origin and most other lawmakers who are usually present, the Festival lacked lustre.
Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern, who was the only top political leader present at the event, was seated in an obscure position. She was not given an opportunity to speak.
The other MPs present were Phil Twyford and Priyanca Radhakrishnan (Labour) and Melissa Lee (National)
The Lavani Performance
The renowned Kalika Kala Kendra dancers of Ahmednagar (and Rajashree Nagarkar) fame, looked stunning in their colourful costumes. They are renowned for their scintillating ‘Lavani,’ the world’s oldest folk dance.
But they were not in their elements at the VIP ceremony. We hope that their performances elsewhere were in their usual best.
The fact that Auckland Diwali is becoming less relevant as a community event, and tailored more to its money-paying sponsors to bask in self-adulation was evident more this year than ever in the past. There were too many of them grabbing the microphone and doing their sales pitch, which has never happened in the past at the main ceremony.
Auckland City Council, Asia-NZ Foundation and other public-sector stakeholders are clearly losing their grip, allowing commercial organisations to take charge of what is essentially a people’s Festival.
This is a message to the Ethnic Panel to raise its voice against this unnecessary trend.
(Pictures by Hemant Parikh)