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India Fest brings yoga, dance, fashion and fun to New Orleans Museum of Art

You can read the full article on nola.com

India Fest brings yoga, dance, fashion and fun to New Orleans Museum of Art

By Chris Waddington, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

The inaugural India Fest at New Orleans Museum of Art will showcase dance, music, food — and a host of Indian traditions and crafts, including the henna tattoos and elaborate bridal fashions pictured here. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, 2013. (Meghana Kamath Hemphill)

Don't look for gumbo and inflatables when India Fest takes over the New Orleans Museum of Art on Saturday (May 11). But get yourself ready for fun, food, music, dancing and Grade-A, New Orleans people watching.

Urmila Kamath, who helped to organize the event for the Indian Arts Circle of New Orleans, said that putting on a festival seemed natural for the local Indians involved.

"India has tons of festivals and fairs in every region from harvest celebrations to gatherings of kite-flying enthusiasts," Kamath said. "India is much like New Orleans in that respect. We don't need much encouragement – or even a compelling reason – to put on a festival."

One of the coolest things about India Fest is the way it showcases ancient traditions (an evening concert by acclaimed classical musicians) and contemporary crazes (the hip-hop-inflected Bangra dancing that gets modern India boogieing at clubs and wedding parties). It channels the spiritual element of Indian culture (with yoga in the museum's contemporary galleries) and satisfies more earthly desires with food vendors dishing up classic Indian dishes.

The festival also makes it clear why some people describe India (and Pakistan) as "the subcontinent." About 70 artists, presenters and food vendors will dish up cultural riches from this vast, amazingly diverse region, where the plethora of languages is matched in every other aspect of life.

"We could have done a whole festival of folk dancing, or a festival dedicated to Indian classical music, but for the inaugural India Fest it seemed best to offer a bit of everything," Kamath said. "In that sense, the festival reflects the contemporary reality of India, where greater mobility and modern media have encouraged regional cross-fertilization."

Although India Fest takes place at a museum and sculpture garden, "do not touch" hardly applies. Participatory activities are central to the gathering.

Come to India Fest if you want to get a henna tattoo; fall in with a traditional Indian wedding procession; or learn the fine art of wearing a sari, a process that involves wrapping 6 yards of cloth into a wearable garment.

Kids can dress in Indian clothes for a photo session; or learn how to make cloth flower wristbands, threshold decorations and other Indian crafts. Storytellers will relate Indian folk tales (and read from Indian children's books). You even can fly an Indian kite.

India Fest

What: Music, dancing, yoga classes, craft activities and food from across India will be showcased at a festival staged by the Indian Arts Circle of New Orleans and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

When: Saturday (May 11), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park.

Admission: $5 (free for museum members). For a full schedule of events, go to iacneworleans.com.

Concert: The festival continues with a separate, by-admission performance from Arpan, a quintet of Indian classical musicians. The music starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Stern Auditorium at NOMA. Tickets start at $20. Call 504.606.5938 or email iacno@cox.net to purchase.

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