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Merry Christmas from GemArts

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The end of the year is always a time for reflection, and across GemArts performance and participation programme, we are reminded of all of the wonderful artists, communities, audiences, volunteers, partners and funders we have worked with in 2018.  We would like to thank every one of them for continuing to support our work in so many ways.
 
Although each and every performance and project has their highlights, we have picked a few below to show some of the work we have done this year. I hope you enjoy looking back at GemArts 2018 year, where we have supported the best and brightest artistic talent, both emerging and established artists from the UK and abroad; continued to champion creativity and diversity; and have offered unique cultural experiences, to people of all ages and backgrounds, enabling exceptional opportunities to participate in diverse music, dance, literature and visual arts.
 

Masala Festival – following last year’s Journal Culture Arts Council Award win, we were proud to be a finalist this year for the Best Event Tyneside for Masala Festival, which returned for the third time in 2018 and celebrated an outstanding selection of artists and producers from the North of England, a fantastic range of South Asian art forms from poetry, dance and film to jazz and classical music, family fun days to amazing new visual arts commissions, including a new sculpture created by robotic arm! Keep an eye out for Masala Festival 2019!

 

GemArts Riverside Ragas continues to present the very best of raag based music concerts alongside informative pre-concert talks, masterclasses and demonstrations. 2018 featured some of the finest musicians from the UK and India: Shreya Devnath, Arnab Chakrabarty with Talvin Singh, Shashank Subramanyam, ONE (ensemble of Vainikas), Purbayan Chaterjee with Gurdain Rayatt, Jasdeep Singh Degun and ended with an incredible premier of Simon Thacker’s Svara Kanti’s new album Trikala. We have an incredible line up for you in Spring Summer 2019 check out our website for our programme announcement early January.

Every year we work with thousands of people on participatory projects, making diverse arts opportunities accessible to all. In April this year, we worked alongside  Durham County Council and schools across Durham, Stockton and Hartlepool, to mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, delivering cultural arts activities that celebrated the 53 nations, including Steel Pans, Indian Dance, Sri Lankan, Indian and Malaysian visual arts, African Drumming and Storytelling. On the 25th April, 1000 young people processed through Durham city centre to the cathedral to take part in a special service to mark the event.

In the centenary year of the Representation of the People Act, GemArts were invited to be part of PROCESSIONS, a UK-wide mass participation artwork to mark 100 years of women’s suffrage, produced by Artichoke and commissioned by 14-18 NOW, based on an idea by Darrell Vydelingum.

Our Feel Good group created a banner that represented what the vote means to them, what it is like being a women in the UK today, highlighting their past, present and their hopes for the future. On 10th of June, the group processed through Edinburgh, proudly showcasing their banner, with thousands of other women and girls across the UK. Wearing either green, white or violet, the colours of the suffragette movement, the PROCESSIONS appeared as a flowing river of colour through the city streets.

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October saw the launch of our new film #endmatecrime for National Hate Crime week. The film was made by participants from The Gateshead Housing Company’s customer led Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group and charity Changing Lives. Through creative arts sessions, working with our artist Tommy Anderson, participants created a series of hard hitting artwork, that have been designed into postcards, a poster and an animation film featuring real-life personal stories of victims of mate crime in Gateshead. You can watch the film here.


Our Arts, Health and Wellbeing strand continues to work with communities across Gateshead and Newcastle using creative engagement to address isolation and loneliness. This year we have worked alongside Gateshead Council to embed the Making Every Contact Count (MECC) approach, offering training to artists, staff and volunteers to support our creative practise.

Our flagship East by North East youth music project, now in it’s 5th year, engages with 177 young people on a weekly basis. Young people from diverse communities, living in challenging circumstances, take part in a wide range of musical genres. The project is committed to supporting a diverse music workforce ensuring gender equality across the programme.

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You can find out more about our work on our website www.gemarts.org

On behalf of everyone at GemArts and GVEMSG, we would like to thank you for your continued support, and wish you a very Merry Christmas, and all the best for a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

 

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Vaisakhi Festival Celebrations

This year Vaisakhi falls on Wednesday 13th April, and later that month GemArts and Gateshead Visible Ethnic Minorities Support Group host their annual celebrations at Gateshead Civic Centre on Saturday 23rd April, marking this special date in the Sikh calendar. (Call 0191 440 4124 or email info@gemarts.org to book your tickets)

Vaisakhi is a long established harvest festival in Punjab.  It falls on either the 13th or 14th April every year. Vaisakhi is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating Khalsa, and it marks the Sikh New Year.  It is also observed with different significance attached to it in different parts of India.

Vaisakhi in Sikhism

Vaisakhi is one of the biggest celebrations of the year for the Sikh community.  It is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating KHALSA, the establishment of the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikh founded the Khalsa at the Vaisakhi gathering is 1699 at Anandpur. Guru Gobind Singh had arranged for followers from all over India to meet him at the Vaisahki fair in Anandpur.  He asked for five people to come forward who were willing to die for their religion. After the prayers he sprinkled AMRIT – water with sugar (strength must always be balanced by sweetness of temperament) and stirred with a steel sword (symbolising the need for strength). He declared them to be the first members of a new community of equals, to be called Khalsa, meaning pure. They will dedicate their lives to the service of others and the pursuit of justice for people of all faiths.  These five people were called the PANJ PYARE, and were asked to wear five distinctive symbols of their new identity, the five ‘k’s and a turban.

  1.  Kesh (long uncut hair) – The long uncut hair symbolises chivalry, saintness and courage.
  2.  Khanga (comb)- It is needed to keep the long hair set and tidy, symbolises cleanliness.
  3.  Kirpan (sword)-A sword is a symbol for royalty and knighthood
  4.  Kara (iron bracelet)-Symbol of everlasting love for God. It is round like a ring and therefore no beginning or end.
  5.  Kachera (underwear)-Specially tailored shorts and symbolises purity and restraint.

TURBAN: The turban has great significance in Sikhism. Apart from looking smart and handsome, it is considered the CROWN of a Sikh. It is true to say that without a turban there is no Kaur or Singh just as without a crown there is no king or queen.

To end social divisions, the Panj Pyara’s surnames were removed by the Guru, mainly because surnames were associated with ones cast – the Guru gave them (and all Sikh men) the name SINGH, meaning the “lion”, a reminder of the need for courage.  At the same time, the Guru gave all Sikh women the name or title Kaur, meaning “princess” to emphasise dignity and complete equality. The Guru then knelt below the five and asked them to initiate him. Hence, the Khalsa became a community in which master and disciple were equal.

Vaisakhi brings a unique message of tolerance, harmony and equality amongst Sikh communities. In a modern day society, it is clear to observe the equality amongst all citizens, regardless of their class, colour and gender through Sikhism. By working together communities can strengthen themselves with a wide understanding of the rich diversity they are surrounded by.

As far as farmers are concerned, Vaisakhi is not a religious occasion for them, it is the time to harvest the crops especially wheat. On Vaisakhi farmers thank God for the beautiful crop and pray for good times ahead. People buy new clothes, sing, dance and enjoy the best of festival food.

For more information on our Vaisahki Celebrations event taking place on Saturday 23rd April visit here. We’ll see you on the dance floor!

Vaisakhi guest high commissioner credit Mohammed Rayaz Vaiasakhi performance credit Mohammed Rayaz Vaisakhi dancer pose credit Mohammed Rayaz Vaisakhi guests credit Mohammed Rayaz

Image credit: Mohammed Rayaz