As a coastal city with an international trading port, Belfast has a long history of open cultural exchange.
Taking this into the 21st century is ArtsEkta, an organisation founded in 2006 with the aim of promoting ethnic arts in the capital.
The brainchild of Indian-born Nisha Tandon, ArtsEkta was founded on principles of inclusivity, creativity and openness in all aspects of society – Ekta means ‘bonding’ or ‘uniting’ in Tandon’s native language. Bringing together authority figures, community organisations and residents of Belfast and beyond, the ArtsEkta team has launched projects that inspire audiences to engage with cultures outside Northern Ireland.
Holi Festival of Colours
All of these projects have close ties to local minority communities and seek to unite people of different cultural backgrounds, across Asia, Europe and Africa. Since its inception ArtsEkta has grown dramatically in size and scope, and in recent years the company has put on a number of festivals that celebrate Belfast’s tradition of Indo-Celtic exchange.
The Holi Festival of Colours, held at Belfast’s Titanic Exhibition Centre, is a vibrant coming-together of music, dance and colour that mirrors one of the most popular holidays in India and marks the arrival of spring. You can watch an introduction to the festival below.
In 2015 ArtsEkta launched Nine Nights, a one-off outdoor theatre spectacle celebrating Indian folklore through traditional music combined with extraordinary special effects. Run as part of Creative Belfast, the event saw nearly 1,000 participants take over the streets and the area surrounding City Hall. Nine Nights paid tribute to the ancient Hindu celebrations of the same name, Navrati, and the festivals of Diwali and Dusshera. A procession of over 600 torchbearers opened the proceedings before a show featuring puppets, live music and pyrotechnics lit up the Belfast skyline. An animated video introduction to Nine Nights, along with a clip featuring interviews with Nisha Tandon among others, can be found below.