Thursday, 19 March 2009

Jai Ho

Matt Connell continues his reflections on his visit to WOMADelaide. Earlier reports can be found here and here.

Thurs 5th: Had my stereotypical cultural imaginary of Australia as somehow being a bit 'Wild West' shattered today - the culture of Health and Safety is even more pervasive here than in the UK. I cut my finger (using a saw), and had to fill in a form to get a plaster (Action Taken to Prevent a Reoccurrence of the Accident = 'be more careful next time….'). But, joking aside, a big event like this has to take H&S matters very seriously - a chat with one of the site electricians revealed how one of his electrical inspections at another event discovered a bare wire contact with a tent frame that would have electrified an entire row of stalls if it hadn't been spotted - and with up to 70,000 members of the public expected to visit over the weekend, everyone is keen to make the site as safe as is possible.

The artists are continuing their outlining and underpainting of the hoarding - which is combining a classic Bombay film image (of the suffering heroine of Mother India pulling a plough) with an image referencing the recent box office smash Slumdog Millionaire. The Slumdog sweep of the Oscars has generated a huge amount of publicity in India, and has come at just the right moment for the Bombay Picture Palace at WOMADelaide - there seems to be quite a buzz around what we are doing, which is really nice. Although Slumdog is not of course strictly a Mumbai film, most of the crew for it were in fact from the Mumbai film industry. The Hindi phase 'jai ho' ('victory'), which forms the lyric of the climactic song from Slumdog Millionaire, is fast becoming our team catchphase and acting as an endlessly re-inflected lingua franca as preparations accelerate in anticipation of opening to the public tomorrow. Yesterday, I heard this song blaring from a record shop in downtown Adelaide, which was fantastic.

Had a lovely moment today when I invited an Indian taxi driver on site to have a look at what we are doing. On chatting to the artists and soaking up the atmosphere he was quite moved, and rendered palpably homesick for his family in India. He said he loved the venue, and was proud to see 'his people' doing something great in Australia. This was very satisfying, because despite the heartfelt efforts of committed organisations like WOMAD, the whole world music/cultural festival scene is of course prey to the sceptical accusation that it provides a merely 'orientalist' frission of novelty to white middle class audiences without providing any real cultural authenticity or engagement. We'll see what the public make of it all tomorrow….
(Photo Credit: mikecogh. Permissions.)

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