Migrant Cultures

(Siddhanath Ganu, Omkar Gokhale, Asian College of Journalism)

Amidst the various colourful events marking the Madras week, workers in Chennai also came together to celebrate the spirit of the city in a three-day event.

The event ‘Namma Chennai, Namma Royapettah’ was organized by Give Life Foundation in the Presentation Church Grounds in Royapettah on 23rd August. The event brought together workers in Chennai who come from various parts of India and its neighbouring countries. They showcased their traditional cultures.

Cultural performance by Tibetan migrant workers

Assamese migrant workers perform the Bihu dance

Migrant workers usually belong to marginalised communities. They live without access to their entitlements and there is usually no platform for them to present their arts in the city  they migrate to. Namma Chennai witnessed the exhibition of cultural diversity with Bhojpuri bhajans sung by a group of workers from Bihar, Bihu dance by Assamese workers, a Tibetan folk dance presented by migrant workers from Tibet itself, the Ganesh Vandana presented by Odiya workers, amongst many others.

The organizer of the event, Father Jagath Gasper elaborated the theme. He said that Chennai is a cosmopolitan city and creating space for everyone is an important component of integration, unity, equity, fairness and justice. “Celebrating diversity is important for us, because we want everyone to come together.” He added that while celebrating Chennai everyone should be included and everyone should have a say in the odyssey of Chennai. “Everyone can have their own linguistic cultural identity, yet they can be a part of a common culture.”

The event was an add-on to the Chennai celebrations, bringing in what Gasper calls’ a people’s perspective’. In this three day event, workers, children rescued from bonded labour, differently-abled children and fishermen participated.

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