Thames, Hooghly communities plan riverside art walk for cross-cultural connectivity

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Kolkata, July 20 (IANS) In a bid to inspire cross-cultural connectivity between Bengal and Britain, the communities along the Thames and Hooghly rivers have come together for a year-long artistic exchange programme to create 20 hand-painted silk scrolls and participate in animated walks across 20 locations along the two rivers between September-December this year.

The project, Silk River that engages the communities in 20 locations from Murshidabad to Batanagar by the Hooghly in Bengal and Kew Gardens to Southend by the Thames in Britain, aims to explore the connect in craft, culture, heritage, education and tourism between London and Kolkata through its interactive activities.

“These unique hand painted flags are the maps of the places where the walks would be conducted. The walks along the two mighty rivers would be pivotal in opening up space for people like artists, environmentalists, historians to come together and be inspired by each others culture,” Ali Pretty, the artistic director of Kinetika, a Britain-based non-profit organisation that is spearheading the project, said at the screening of the documentary “SILK RIVER : The Legacy” here on Thursday.

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Talking about the artistic engagement between the Bengali and the British artists while creating the illustrative silk scrolls at a residential workshop in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district, Ruchira Das of ThinkArts, In-charge of the activities in Bengal, said it worked out as a perfect cultural exchange between the two communities, as the artists from Britain became extremely engaged to their Indian counterpart by the end of the project.

She said the response of the artistic engagement in Britain was appreciated with equal enthusiasm.

“Exactly the same thing was done in the UK, where people came up with images of their communities and 10 flags are being made out of them. The same Murshidabad silk was taken there and two ‘patachitra’ (cloth-based scroll painting) artists conducted workshops to give them a flavour of the narrative,” Das said.

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The walks by the two rivers culminates in Britain in September and in Bengal in December engaging diaspora communities and connecting young people with artists along the route.

Each location by the Hooghly would be partnered with a Thames equivalent based on certain common themes such as, military links for Greenwich/Woolwich – Serampore/Barrackpore and Howrah and Dartford for the similar looking bridges over the rivers, while Bengal’s Batanagar would be paired with East Tilbury for the Bata factory at both the locations.

Terming the Silk River as a cross-cultural and co-creational project, Debanjan Chakraborty, the Director of British Council (North and North-East India), said the walks and the scrolls would aim to celebrate the existing connection as well as inspire new connections on the occasion of the current UK-India Year of Culture.

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“We are delighted that the project is a part of UK India Year of Culture that seeks to showcase innovative and creative work from both countries, building deeper connections between communities. We hope that the two walks will really bring together the full dimension of the 20 scrolls and its connection with the corresponding communities,” Chakraborty added.



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