Hasna Ali Abdou of the Republic of Djibouti in Africa visited India recently for the Surajkund International Crafts festival at Haryana. Impressed with the way the festival is conducted, she describes ‘her visit as a journey of discovery of the artistic diversity of India.
Sreejan Shandilya, Second Secretary and Head of Chancery Embassy of India, Djibouti, in a recent post said that when the Government of India decided to open 18 new diplomatic missions to Africa, he was shifted there from France. He was told that “young Francophone diplomats should serve in Africa.”
When CSP requested him to share a contact for someone who had visited Surajkund 2020, he gave young Hasna’s contact. Hasna is a craftswoman and likes to make things with her hands. So she was particularly thrilled to see handmade objects and rows of stands showcasing various artistic products.
Hasna Ali Abdou of the Republic of Djibouti at Surajkund 2020
She says she has always had a “huge crush” on Indian handicrafts because of the varied and vibrant colours used by Indian artisans giving the objects their cheerfulness. I have always had a huge crush on “Indian crafts” and for all the colours they use when making their objects which gives them their cheerfulness. The crafts have some similarities with Djiboutian crafts, especially since in Djibouti there are Indians and hence there is a cultural and artistic similarity. The Indians liked my items made with natural red sea shells.”
Hasna says India changes visitors. “India is an absolutely fascinating country. It is always incredible and it changes one forever.”
The partner nation for this year’s festival which was held in February, was Uzbekistan. When Egypt became the Focus Nation in the 23rd Surajkund Crafts Mela in 2009, the idea had been proposed to introduce a country/nation as a Focus Nation.
The Haryana Government goes all out with the splash of colours, rhythm of drum beats and artistic extravagance at Surajkund in Faridabad, Haryana during the first fortnight of each February. The curtains go up on the acclaimed annual Surajkund International Crafts Mela from 1st February onwards, a celebration of Indian folk traditions and cultural heritage.
Occupying a place of pride on the international tourist calendar, more than a million visitors throng the Mela during the fortnight including thousands of foreign tourists. The Surajkund Mela is unique as it showcases the richness and diversity of the handicrafts, handlooms and cultural fabric of India, and is the largest crafts fair in the world.
In 2020, 20 countries and all the states of India participated in the Mela. A large number of renowned national and international folk artistes and cultural groups present day performances at both the Chaupals, the open-air theatres, located in the Mela premises. Also enthralling cultural evening programmes are held at the main Chaupal during each of the Mela evenings.
The official website says that the “Mela is a custodian of the heritage crafts involving use of traditional skills that are fading away due to cheap machine made imitations, and a special section is earmarked for showcasing of these heritage crafts.”
“The Mela celebrates the unique diversity of Indian traditions and culture in an ambience, created to represent the ethos of rural India. Surajkund International Crafts Mela showcases some of the most exquisite handlooms and handicrafts of India. Handmade fabrics soaked in ethnic colours make an eye catching display for the visitors,” it adds.
This year the England participated for the first time in the Surajkund International Crafts mela, through a MoU Signed by Surajkund Mela Authority and The British Council.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Surajkund Mela Authority and British Council, India recently in which the British Council will facilitate United Kingdom participation in Surajkund Mela for the year 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Haryana Tourism Minister Kanwar Pal said that signing an agreement in the field of tourism and crafts with the British Council, India will strengthen India-UK relations and will promote tourism as well.
Describing the MoU as a milestone in the history of Surajkund Mela, the Tourism Minister said that the Mela will gain more popularity globally. He said the British Council will organize several programs such as training of artisans, development of business models for artisans and display of woman craft workers in India and the UK in association with Haryana.
British Council's North India Regional Director, Tom Birtwistle, expressed happiness over the agreement with the Surajkund Mela Authority, saying that this will give the craftsmen of the two countries an opportunity to showcase their talent at an international platform.