(c) Mark Maseey
Kalasetu 2023 Croydon
COMMUNITY FLAGS / PLACE MAKING
A borough as diverse as Croydon is symbolised by the plurality of its culture. South Asians form a large population of the borough. As part of the This is Croydon, The Mayor’s London Borough of Culture 2023 celebration, Subrang Arts initiated ‘Kalasetu’ – Kala means ‘Art’; ‘Setu’ means bridge – building cultural bridges with communities through arts. In collaboration with Kinetika, our Artistic Director Ali Pretty and our team of specialist silk artists, Team Subrang worked with pupils from Norbury High Girls School, Croydon to create a set of 25 silk scarves and 25 silk flags that reflect the diversity of the Indian disapora. The team also created ‘Rani Vividhataa’ – a vibrant and colourful 4.5m tall Queen of Diversity wrapped in unique, eye-catching, hand-painted silks depicting aspects of the heritage and arts of the Indian diaspora in Croydon, and what it means to the local community there.
Pupils researched cultural expressions like arts, crafts, music, dance, festivals, places / maps of the Indian diaspora in the borough through the lens of UNESCO-recognised intangible heritage of Batik silk painting. The themes reflect the communities of Croydon. These include Punjabi / Sikhs, Tamil, Malayalee, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi and people from Central India. Each flag depicts individual communities.
This research inspired the design and content of the silks and the scarves, ‘Rani Vividhataa’ and flags were displayed and used as part of a performance at This is Croydon’s flagship programmes – Croydon Mela. The silks were seen at other events during 2023 including Croydon Carnival and Diwali in Trafalgar Square.
Imagery: Nigel Thompson
Imagery: Mark Massey
Diwali in Trafalgar Square
Imagery: Mark Massey
Image: Mark Massey
“I just wanted to say a massive thank you both for bringing the Diwali Queen, dancers and bead workshop to this year’s Diwali on Trafalgar Square 2023. It was wonderful to work with you all and I have to say the Diwali Queen was my personal highlight. I loved her being part of the opening dance sequence and then taking her place proudly on Pall Mall East. It was such a joy walking up the road and seeing many people enjoying the performances and marvelling at her stunning costume – I have no doubt many a selfie was taken!”
– Anna Gosiff, Greater London Authority
About Subrang Arts
Subrang Arts is a leading arts organisation dedicated to the promotion and development of South Asian arts. Subrang profiles and programmes new and culturally exciting diverse arts by creating and developing high quality dance productions, visual arts exhibitions, heritage projects, music concerts, arts festivals, workshops and commissions with artists across all South Asian art forms.
One of its objectives is to make diverse arts accessible to all, explore crosscultural art forms, give opportunities to people to learn new skills and cultivate their ambitions. Subrang actively engages people of all age groups in their activities, giving them a supportive environment in which transformative experiences and exciting intercultural exchanges take place.
About This is Croydon
Launched in 2017 by the Mayor of London, the London Borough of Culture award aims to shine a light on the character and diversity of London’s boroughs and bring culture to everyone.
This is Croydon will be a big, bold and cross-cultural celebration of the borough’s unique identity, heritage and character – elevating Croydon to its rightful place as London’s most innovative and exciting borough. From flagship events with international headliners and emerging home-grown talent, to hundreds of grassroots activities led by organisations in every corner of the borough, the programme will showcase the very best of Croydon – London’s best-kept secret.
The term ‘Indian art’ refers to a wide range of artistic practices, including painting, sculpture, ceramics and woven silk, among other examples of textile arts. Culture plays an important role in the development of any nation. It represents a set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices. Culture and creativity manifest themselves in almost all economic, social and other activities. Communities are a vital part of the cultural, creative and social narrative. The rich heritage of South Asians in Croydon includes songs, music, dance, theatre, folk traditions, performing arts, rites and rituals, paintings and writings that are known, as the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ (ICH). To coincide with the Mayor’s London Borough of Culture celebration, we want to work with these communities to present a celebration of their arts, culture, music and dance. ‘Kala’ means ‘art’; ‘Setu’ means ‘bridge’ – building a cultural bridge with communities through a three-phase project combining and bringing together heritage and performing arts.
Background of the Indian Diaspora in the UK
British Indians are Britons whose families originally emigrated from India. The term encompasses both native-born Britons and foreign-born Indians who share a common ancestry. About 1.4 million people in the United Kingdom identify as Indian, making them the largest minority community in the country. Gujaratis, Bengalis, Tamils, Malayalees and Sikh/Punjabis are the major subsets of the Indian population in the United Kingdom, making it the sixth-largest diasporic community overall.
Today, the Indian diaspora plays a significant role in the economic and cultural life of Britain. Many Indians have settled in and around Croydon and have assimilated into their local communities.
According to the latest census, there are 1.8% Indians – about 24,660 Indians in the Borough of Croydon. We will be exploring five themes during the course of this project.
Each theme will inspire flags and silks that reflect the Indian diaspora and their culture.