Diwali in B.C.: A Conversation With Artistic Director, Rohit Chokhani
A Culturally-Relevant Celebration of Diwali
Mumbai-native, Rohit Chokhani, is bringing a new province-wide Diwali celebration to the streets of Metro Vancouver. The idea behind the artistic platform, Diwali in B.C., according to Chokhani, is “not to recreate the Indian celebration of Diwali but to celebrate the new year and South Asian culture in a way that is inclusive and welcoming of other cultures that represent Metro Vancouver.” He felt it important to produce something non-denominational so that anyone of any background who felt drawn to the theatre, dance and film performances could be a part of the conversation. Diwali in B.C. is coming to life through various events taking place from October 14 – November 16, 2017.
When Chokhani left India at the age of 22 for the United States and then Canada, he missed the experiences of celebrating what is also known as the Festival of Lights with family and friends. That personal desire to connect his upbringing with his new identity as an immigrant in the Western world was the catalyst for this initiative. Using his artistic voice as a director and producer was a natural vehicle to pursue this inspiration.
On Shakti, or Feminine Power
The program he has curated centres on the theme of shakti, or feminine power. When asked about the origin of this theme, Chokhani recalled, “There are a few criteria I always watch out for because diversity and inclusivity is very important, so I always program a festival making sure that there is a good distribution of gender equity around it, and I also make sure all cultures are represented…even within the South Asian landscape.” Interestingly, all the works that grabbed his attention this year were put out by women, making the theme ‘feminine power’ come to surface almost on its own. This aligns with Chokhani’s Eastern philosophy which includes the belief that the Divine comes in masculine and feminine forms, just as people – regardless of gender – have masculine and feminine energies.
Important Cultural Conversations Through Art
This spiritual element became the perfect backdrop for cultural conversations around sex trafficking (Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan), society’s responsibility in encouraging certain destructive masculine behaviours (Anatomy of Violence), healing after abuse (Happy Place) and indigenous stories from India that make one reflect on Canadian topics such as reconciliation (Encounter), to name a few. Each performance has the incredible mandate to showcase the capability of women and “leave you with a deeper question that makes you think about life and maybe eventually help you grow as an individual or community,” according to Chokhani.
In addition to creating space for these important topics through Diwali in B.C., Chokhani also invests in a secondary project, Project SAT, which he describes as a platform for the next generation of theatre makers. For those who are interested in writing, directing and producing, there are numerous workshops designed to help bring dreams to life. Some of these will be held in conjunction with the Diwali initiative.
For more information about Diwali in B.C. and Jessie Richardson Theatre Award-winner Rohit Chokhani, please visit www.diwalibc.ca.