Diwali pursues dream

By Laurel Stowell

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A positive hum of goodwill rose from the hundreds who crowded into Wanganui War Memorial Hall's Concert Chamber for Diwali Cultural Night on Saturday.

There was barely a seat left as the free concert started at 7pm.

The annual celebration is organised by the Rangitikei/Wanganui Multicultural Council.

"It's my dream that some day Wanganui will move into multiculturalism, and this is what we are getting," president Vijeshwar Prasad said.

The council has been holding a cultural night to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali for about 12 years. This year's was a cracker and Mr Prasad received a raft of congratulatory phone calls on Sunday morning.

The occasion was funded by a $2000 grant from the Whanganui Community Foundation, and many hours of volunteer work went into it.

From 4.30pm onward, ethnic groups sold food and drink from the spacious landing upstairs in the hall.

There were tables and chairs where people could sit and stuff themselves with chickpea curry, rice, vegetable patties, mango lassi, kava, dumplings, doughnuts and sweets.

After a lot of relaxed mixing and chatter the crowd moved into the hall's concert chamber, filling it.

The large room was in darkness as beautifully dressed Indian children filed down the aisle with lighted lamps and stood by while Wanganui Mayor Annette Main and Whanganui MP Chester Borrows lit the diyas (oil lamps) at the front of the stage.

Kaiwhaiki kaumatua Morvin Simon opened with a karakia, followed by a spirited performance from Taikura, the elders' kapa haka group he coaches with his wife, Kura.

Sixteen-year-old Priyanka Bangia got the job of MC, because Mr Prasad likes to encourage youth.

There followed many performances.

The kapa haka group from Te Kura o Ratana gave a poi, a haka and a traditional chant, all ably explained by their tutor.

A group of Samoan men from Marton, with bare and glistening chests and white ruffs around their calves, gave a series of energetic and co-ordinated dances.

Cook Island maidens rotated their hips seductively, and young Indian dancers in sparkling costumes performed traditional and Bollywood numbers with plenty of verve and charm.

Speakers Annette Main and Chester Borrows said they were happy to see such numbers and such accord among the audience.

It was a mixed one, with children filing in and out, adults chatting, generous applause and music from the PA system covering all.

The show ended at 10pm, but people didn't want to go home.

"We had to put some music on for the dance. We had about 15 minutes of dance, with people up on stage having a good time," Mr Prasad said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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