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Archive for the ‘RUNG2014’ Category

Sadeqain, the legend~ a special feature in Rung Festival at ROM

Sadeqain needs no introduction to South Asians and to art connoisseurs the world over.

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Born as Syed Sadeqain Ahmed Naqvi  in Amroha, India in 1930, Sadeqain rose to became the most accomplished painter and calligrapher Pakistan has ever seen.

A self taught painter,  who still beholds the world with an awe by his quality and volumes of his artwork. It is estimated that Sadequain painted more than 15,000 pieces of artwork consisting of murals, paintings, drawings and calligraphies.

A man who possessed incredible passion and energy for art, donated most of his works to many friends and places. Though priceless as art treasures, his paintings stand a worth of over $1 billion now.

He is credited to have brought a renaissance, ( the reawakening) in the art of Calligraphy. Calling himself a faqir, and belonging to a family of calligraphers he considered calligraphy as a divine gift to him.

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Asked many times about when did he begin painting, he often said he did not remember how early he started painting. In one of his interviews he remarked, “Perhaps I must be moving my fingers to paint in my mothers womb too.”

His murals cover an area larger than the murals created by Michelangelo and Diego Riviera combined.

The mural titled “Saga of Labor” located at Mangla Dam is credited to be his largest work (approximately 180 x 35 feet). Saga of Labour is Sadeqain’s tribute to the working men and women since early life on Earth. The mural illustrates mankind’s journey from food gatherer to the development of agriculture, handicrafts and machinery. Beginning with Iqbal’s verse on Farhad, this majestic mural ends with Iqbal’s reference to other worlds beyond the stars. It is known to be one of the largest murals in the world.



Sadeqain painted on the poetry of Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz.


He was also a poet, who composed Rubaiyat (quartains),  then inscribed, and illustrated them. There are over 200 such illustrations collected in Rubaiyat-e-Sadeqain.

A recipient of numerous national and international awards like  Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance, Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Australian Cultural Award, and Gold Mercury Award, he  won the first prize at the prestigeous Laureate Biennale de Paris.

Sadeqain was described by Le Monde, Paris in 1964 as,  “The multiplicity of Sadequain’s gifts is reminiscent of Picasso.”

He painted till the last days of his life. When he passed away in 1986, he was worjking on the “Arz-o-Samawat” (Earth and the Heavens)  for the ceiling of the Frere Hall, Karachi. With 100 panels spanning an area of 3,200 square feet, Sadeqain could only complete 87 of them.



Sadeqain was immensely popular in India and his work is currently graces many locations in India including Delhi, Aligarh, Benaras and Hyderabad.

His painting are the prized possession of New York Metropolitan Museum, Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and many other locales.

Dr Salman Ahmed, Sadeqain’s nephew has formed Sadeqain Foundation in 2007  with the mission to Discover, Preserve and Promote Sadeqain’s immense works.

I ask him what does he mean by discover Sadeqain’s work?

He responds that the painter was extremely generous and gifted away thousands of works to friends and places where he painted. Hence alot of his art sits with individuals, and many of their heirs do not understand the value of it, or are unable to maintain it. Moreover in the words of Anwar Maqsood, “Sadeqain is one painter who has painted even after his death.” implying that a lot of fake  artwork has been created attributed to him. He envisions to create a Museum of Sadeqain’s art.

We at Rung Festival at ROM were fortunate to have two panels of the original mural by Sadeqain on May 31, and June 1, 2014. The mural called Pakistan was painted by Sadeqain in 2 weeks at a Pakistani Expo in Lusanne, Switzerland in 1966. The mural depicted the cultures of various provinces of Pakistan. In 1975 they were brought to Canada for a Pakistani Expo, and since then 7 of the 9 pieces of the mural reside in the Pakistan Embassy in Ottawa.

The exhibit became the focal point of all visitors to Rung Festival.



Information & pictures: Courtesy Dr. Salman Ahmed. Sadequain Foundation USA.


Crafts of South Asia- RUNG Festival at ROM

Like the languages spoken and the faiths that exist, South Asia is a treasure of countless arts and crafts both ancient and modern.
RUNG at ROM presents some of these crafts in their original forms, but also attempts to make them interactive to enable the art lovers attending the festival get a hands on experience on it.

Arabic Calligraphy
Arabic Calligraphy is a much revered art form, which is extremely well developed for the script that Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages use. Despite a developed curriculum for the art of Calligraphy by a Turkish calligrapher almost 550 years ago, Calligraphy does not find its place in the curriculum of major institutions of the world, and manages to survive by the love of individuals who take it as a personal mission.
Arabic Calligraphy is envied by other scripts for being so fluid and flexible that one can create images through its writings.
We will have calligraphers demonstrate the art at ROM, write book marks and names for the visitors, and also let those interested to try their skill of writing in the calligraphic fonts like Naskhi, Kufic etc.


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Block Printing

Hand block printing is a centuries-old tradition in India, and is alien to none
Every region from Sindhi Ajrak  to animal motifs block printed in Jharkhand and Bihar, from Rajasthani Sanganeri print to Kalamkari in South India, each style has their own unique designs and themes. 

Originating from Sanganer in Rajasthan, block printing reached great heights during the 16th and 17th century in European countries and became one of the major exports of the East India Company. Almost 500 years old, it can be rightly categorized as a heritage craft.

The craft has traditionally been practiced by local  artisan community, none of whom have ever received formal training. They watch and learn as a matter of daily routine. The whole process, from printing to dyeing, is executed manually at home involving family members in most places. The dyes used in almost all types are traditionally organic dyes.

RUNG at ROM shall have  stall with collection of wooden blocks and ink for the visitors to experience block printing and take away their printed designs on cards.



Hala Tiles

Hala is a small town 35 miles north of Hyderabad in Sindh known for its master craftsmen of  colorful wooden furniture and blue ceramics.

The craft of blue ceramic making known as Kashikari originates came from Iran almost 300 years ago, but was given a local touch by varying the designs.

The craft of making blue tiles, called Kashi Kari dates back to 300 years ago when women made the clay dough at home, turned them into shapes, dried them, painted and then glazed them. Many such tiles were used to adorn the shrines and mosques built in those times. Like the shrine of Shah Abdul Lateef Bhitai at Bhit Shah.

Kashikari is spread across the Thar desert  from Thatta, Hala in Sindh to  Multan in South Punjab to  Rajasthan in India.

Henry Cousens in his book ‘”The Antiquities of Sind’ of 1929, he wrote:
“The brickwork…is very superior, the bricks, or, at least, those on the surface, being made of the best pottery clay, perfectly formed and dense, having cleanly-cut sharp edges, and of a rich dark red. The enameled bricks are glazed, upon their outer surfaces, in light and dark blue and white…The colored dadoes are an especially fine feature…A single design, without duplication, will sometimes cover several square yards of surface…Then, again, some tiles are as small as half an inch square, and over a hundred are used in a square foot, of mixed sizes, forming a perfect mosaic…”

Sadly the art has not seen much improvisation over the years, and are unable to compete the durability of ‘imported’ tiles. 😦

RUNG Festival will indeed showcase a few beautiful mosaic of tiles brought from the tile makers from Hala.

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Kite flying originated in China as early as 5 C BC. As it came to India in the medieval times, it took over as a sport, with Patang baazi as a fight between kite flyers to cut the string of the opponent. Festivals like Makar Sankranti and Basant are traditional occaisions for kite flying and holding Kite-fighting. Kites with specific  designs curiously bear names like Kup, Patang, Guda, Nakhlaoo, Pan, Tukal, Muchal, Farfarata etc. Lahore is known as the Kite Capital of South Asia, with a full fledged kite industry existent there.

How could Rung Festival  miss an ensemble of kites?


These were just a sampler of the crafts at Rung Festival. There shall be a lot more pleasant surprises awaitngthe visitors at Rung Festival on May 31 and June 1 at Royal Ontario Museum.

Desi wedding galore in RUNG at ROM

South Asian wedding is an elaborate institution where incredible amount of money, time and imaginations are invested.

Through the multiple cultures across  South Asia, the wedding traditions vary, but their elaborate and expensive styles remain common.

In most subcultures, wedding ceremonies last several days, with rich flow of elaborate dresses, decorations and food accompanying each event.

RUNG shall display some select ceremonies in a typical South Asian wedding with visitors to be able to experience them through interactive spots.

The  main wedding is  preceded a day or two with the ceremony where the girl is applied henna in preparation for the wedding day. The event is peculiarly decorate in green and yellow with flowers, lamps and henna.
The visitors at RUNG shall be offered to apply mehndi( henna) the South Asian way.

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Just before the groom leaves his home to get the bride, an elaborate ceremony takes place  around the turban tying, performed by the parents and the near relatives. RUNG shall have a fascinating spot of turbon tying for the visitors, and a photo op.

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The typical Hindu wedding ceremony called Mandap includes an elaborate arrangement with pillars, and decorated with floral backdrop, and a fire in the center, around which the bride and the groom take seven rounds,

Each round symbolizes seven wedding vows where the couple invoke different prayers to God in each round:

1.Plenty of nourishing and pure food.
2. A healthy and prosperous life. They ask for the physical, spiritual and mental health from God.
3. Wealth.
4. Increase in love and respect for each other and their respective families.
5. Noble children.
6. Peaceful long life with each other.
7. Companionship, togetherness, loyalty and understanding between themselves.


RUNG shall set up a Mandap and a mock wedding ceremony with the bride and groom around the fire shall take place.

The elaborate embellished dresses and jewelry worn by the bride and groom shall be on display.

There shall be an interactive spot for tying sarees to the visItors, and a photo op.

The photo gallery shows various types of brides from different regions of South Asia:


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 RUNG 2014 is a two day exhibition of South Asian culture and art in Royal Ontario Museum(ROM) on May 31 and June 1, 2014.

Dances of South Asia #2 in RUNG at ROM

Bharata Natyam

Bharata Natyam is one of the most popular classical dances of Southern India, from the state of Tamil Nadu. It has its origins almost 2000 years ago, when it was performed by the maids(devdasis) in temples( mandirs), know as Dasi Attam. Its modern name Bharata Natyam derives it sname from the four major components of the dance:

Bha from bhava means expressions
Ra from Raaga means melody
Ta from Taala means rhythm
Natyam means drama.

In the middle ages, the dance lost its popularity and was revived as an art form in the modern times by Thanjavoor brothers. The dance includes steps( adavu), hand gestures( hasthamudra) and facial expressions( bhaava). The dance begins with the prayers to Lord Ganpathi in front of the idol of Nataraj.

The dancer wears richly brocaded Kanchipuram silk, and is embellished with heavy gold jewelry.

At RUNG at ROM, there shall be several dancers performing Bharata Natyam including Bhavajan Kumar, Bharata Dance School.

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Bhavajan Kumar 2




Kathak means telling a story. Kathak a prominent dance form of Northern India also originated centuries ago in the temples, performed by giorls to please God. Over the years, with the fusion of Hindu and Muslim cultures in the Mughal Era, Kathak was remarkably transformed into its present form.

Kathak’s journey from ancient times to its present form merits a walk-through.

The word “katha” comes from “katha” or story telling. It has its roots in ancient times, when storytellers narrated epics or mythological stories like Shakuntala, and the Mahabharata through dance forms in temples. However with the arrival of Mughals, the dance, enticed to come to the courts, developed into a more Persianised form.
The Kathak dancers adopted the whirling from the dervishes to the ‘chakkars’. The rhythm of the footsteps found harmony with the beat of the tabla recently discovered by Amir Khusro. The femaleKathakaars (storytellers) abandoned the sari of ancient times for the angarkha and churidar pyjama. The language of narration also transformed from Sanskrit to Brij Bhasha and then Urdu.

Kathak shall be brought at RUNG at ROM by Parul Gupta.



Bhangra is a folk dabnce form from the central plains in India-Pakistan called Punjab. The dance dates back to 18th Century, when the men and women danced to celebrate the harvest of wheat during Baisakhi.

The men and women adorn colorful ethnic clothes, and dance to the beat of drom or dhol. The Bhangra music has transitioned from humble rural Punjab to an international popular music after fusion with hip hop music.

Nachdi Jawani dance group brings Bhangra at RUNG.

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Dances of South Asia #1 in RUNG 2014 at ROM

Dance is an art form perhaps as old as human civilization. Evidence of dance existing in the stone age is evident in 30,000 year old Stone shelters at Bhambetka in central India, which are now considered as Heritage by UNESCO.

Dance is not only an expression of happiness or festivities but also a means of story telling which is passed on from generation to generation.

The kaleidoscope of cultures that South Asia is, one finds innumerable dance forms, both classical and folk, as we move from one sub culture to another.

RUNG 2014 is honored to feature a few of those dance forms at ROM.

A dance from Kerala a southernmost Indian state, literally means a dance-drama. ( Katha means story).
Known for its symbolic makeup that identifies them into godly, demonic or human characters, the dancers also adorn colorful, bellowing costumes and crowns. Themes are usually from Hindu Epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana are narrated through fine facial movements of eyes, eyebrows, nose, cheeks and chin along with highly intricate hand gestures. Accompanying vocalists and musicians narrate the story as songs.

Anupama Dineshkumar and Preetha Kandanchatha present Kathakali at RUNG 2014.





This is another dance from Kerala, and literally means ‘dance by a enchantress’  ( Mohini means a seducing woman). As the name signifies, it is a dance exclusively performed by women. The theme for the dance is mostly Love, and performed through delicate expressions of hands, enchanting facial expressions and flowing steps by feet,   supported by vocal and instrumental Carnatic music. The dancer adorns a white brocaded saree, intricate gold jewelry and white jasmine flowers in the hair.

Mohiniattam shall be presented by will be presented by Preetha Kandanchatha, Vrinda  Kandanchatha, Anjeetha Raghuram and Sujatha Ganesh from SG Expressions.




A classical dance form from the Indian state of Odisha, the dance traces its roots from temples back in the 2nd Century  B.C. The torso movement is very important and  an unique feature of the Odissi style. With the lower half of the body remaining static, the torso moves from one side to the other along the axis passing through the centre of the upper half of the body. The dancer adorns very intricate filigiree silver jewelry  and a typical silver crown on the head called Mukoot.

Odissi dance is brought by Nrityakala by students of renowned Maneka Thakker.

Ayushi Odissi Dance - 1


Sri Lankan Dance:

Kandyan dance, a traditional Sri Lankan dance gets its name from Kandy, the central hills of Sri Lanka. The legend behind the dance is said to be a ritual exorcism performed to ward off  Black Magic which caused evil dreams to the King. After the performance fo the ritual the dreams vanished, and hence the locals adopted the dance.
The dance is now performed for its cultural value.

Rangara Dance Academy and Pratibha Dance & Music Acdemy shall bring performances from Sri Lankan Traditional Dances.

Rangara Group 1


Afghan Folk Dance:

Atan is the national dance of Afghanistan, performed mostly by the Pashtuns. It is performed in festivals, weddings and other occaisions, and is known to be the oldest form of Pagan dance. A group of dancers perform in a circle, to the beats of drums going faster with each round.
Different Afghan tribes have slight differing styles of dance movements.

Attan is brought by Afghan Women’s Organizations youth group.

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Brief introductions of other beautiful  dance forms to be performed at RUNG 2014 shall be continued in the next blog.

Talking to some of these accomplished dancers I realized it is impossible to separate the dance from the dancers.





Kaleidoscope of colors from South Asia: RUNG 2014 at ROM #1


RUNG2014 Logo

Royal Ontario Museum celebrates 100 years in 2014. What could be a better occasion to celebrate it by the colors of South Asia with Second RUNG Festival at ROM brought by community partners Ethnic Marketing on May 31 and  June 1, 2014.

South Asians began arriving in Ontario from the subcontinent on May 5, 1838. Hence according to South Asian Heritage Act 2001, May has been declared as the South Asian Heritage month and May 5 as the South Asian Arrival Day each year.

South Asia is a kaleidoscope of colorful cultures, multiple ethnicities and faiths with a strong 1.6 billion population spread across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives.

After having been successful as the most attended and most colorful festivals in Toronto, this year RUNG is being held for two days.

The festival brings a series performing and visual arts from all across the stretch of South Asia.

Lined are enchanting dance performances-Rouf Dance from Kashmir to Bhangra or Kathak from North India to Bharatha Natyam, Mohini Attam and Kathakali from South India and Sri Lanka.

There shall be transcendent vocals from singers from classical  gharanas singing Amir Khusrau in Persian, Shabads in Punjabi, and Nazrul Islam from Bengal and much more.

The sounds of  classical instruments like Tabla, Dhols, Chandamellam, Sitar await to thrill the audience.

For the connoisseurs of arts and handicrafts, there shall be display of arts and crafts from each South Asian Countries.

There shall be interactive spots like block printing and calligraphy for old and young.

The wedding mandap with bridal ensemble,  intricate jewelry and turban tying shall give a taste of elaborate South Asian wedding.

Rung also brings wonderful short films and documentaries from the South Asia.

Kindly keep a close watch at this space,as we bring more blog posts  and gradually unfold the wonderful performances and displays lined up  at RUNG for  May 31 and June 1.


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