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The Shantanjali Festival of Arts celebrates the coming together of various art forms and artists, and the diverse cultures that they each emanate from. And admission is free!

Interview: Ramanan Thiagarajan and Paveena Kumar of Shantanjali Festival of Arts, by Temple of Fine Arts

Well-established Singapore arts group Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) has a newly minted arts festival for the arts and culture lovers of our island of Singapore. The Shantanjali Festival of Arts (SFA) will run with free admission November 28 – 30 2014 at Hong Lim Park.

Touted as an annual event, the Shantanjali Festival of Arts will be a celebration of all art forms, across all ethnicities, cultures and languages. So from Flamenco dances to Brazilian-Cuban rhythms to Bollywood medleys, the SFA promises to be another fulfillment of TFA’s motto: “Art, just for the Love of It”.

We spoke to TFA’s Ramanan Thiagarajan, the main organiser of the SFA, and Paveena Kumar who is SFA’s Head of Publicity and also one of the Festival’s dancers.


Please tell us what this Shantanjali Festival is all about.

The Shantanjali Festival of Arts celebrates the coming together of various art forms and artists, and the diverse cultures that they each emanate from. This inaugural three-day festival will feature performances by invited independent artists, art schools in Singapore as well as the students and teachers of Temple of Fine Arts. Through this festival, we hope to build an environment of sharing, with valuable cross-cultural exchanges, artistic dialogue and many more enriching interactions within the arts community.

How and Why did you come up with this idea?

Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) has staged numerous productions and all of these productions have been enriching learning experiences for generations of students. These have also helped us understand and reach out to a larger audience comprising various cultural groups, allowing us to contribute to the building of a tighter-knit community in Singapore.

This year as a continuation to the celebration of arts and the possibility of a better community through the arts, we embarked on a new initiative.

How has the experience been so far?

It has been an interesting and enjoyable experience as I got to interact with many people from various organisations. We are now at the homestretch and we can’t wait for the festival to begin!

Do you have a team of people helping you? Can you tell us who they are?

Yes I do. Planning the festival is no easy task but I’m fortunate to have a dedicated team with me. It would be impossible to list every member’s contribution for this festival. However, I would like to reserve a special word of thanks to Mala and Swathi.

Mala Devi, a volunteer at Temple of Fine Arts, painstakingly applied all the necessary permits to ensure that we could stage this festival. Thanks to her relentless efforts, we managed to secure a venue for the festival.

Swathi Sathish, a volunteer and dance teacher at Temple of Fine Arts, had the mammoth task of liaising between the participating organisations and TFA. With over 20 organisations participating, it is no easy feat.

Why is the Shantanjali Festival important to a) Singapore and b) its arts community?

a) The Shantanjali Festival of Arts is important to Singapore as it showcases a kaleidoscope of cultures and raises awareness of the various art forms in Singapore. In a multi-cultural country like Singapore it is important that we embrace each others’ differences.

b) There are many organisations that are doing their part to help promote the arts but unfortunately they are never given the opportunity to showcase their work. The Shantanjali Festival is a perfect platform for their art form and effort to be noticed.

Can you tell us some of the acts and arts groups we can expect to see?

Bloco Singapura, Flamenco Sin Fronteras, Apsaras Arts Ltd, Rossinochka, KMSPKS Zen Drum Ensemble, and Chitrakala Arts are some of the organisations that are participating. There are more than 20 organisations participating over the three days.

Was it difficult finding other arts groups interested in being a part of this Festival?

It wasn’t difficult as we had a lot of interest from various arts groups but unfortunately not all that showed interest could participate due to a clash of events.

Why should people attend this festival?

What better way to spend the weekend than with treating yourself and your loved ones to a myriad of cultural performances and delectable delicacies. What’s more, admission is free!

What’s the hope for the future of this festival? Is it earmarked to return annually?

The Shantanjali Festival of Arts is designed to be an annual event connecting various artists. However, as a way to clearly define our objectives, and help us effectively realize our vision, we have a three-year plan for the festival.

This year’s Festival is termed SFA 2014: A Peace Offering – Fostering Friendships: A platform to bring together diverse Arts groups and Artists.

We hear most of your team, including you, have full time jobs. It must’ve been quite a sacrifice executing this festival. What is the one thing you’re looking forward to at the end of this festival?

I’m looking forward to enjoying a hearty meal with all those who made this festival possible!


You’re part of the Shathanjali Team, and also one of the performers for the Festival. Can you tell us more about your item and your role in it?

I was asked to take part in Patanjali (Odissi), Bollywood, a multi-racial item, and a Bhangra item. But due to work commitments, I was only able to commit to Patanjali. It is an Odissi piece with seven dancers and is solely based on the Patanjali Stotram.

I know you of course as a Bharathanatyam dancer too; how long have you been dancing? 

I have been dancing Bharathanatyam since i was six. And I just turned 24 last week! So that’s 18 years.

Paveena Kumar dancing a Bharathanatyam piece.
SFA’s Head of Publicity Paveena Kumar dancing a Bharathanatyam piece.

How important has dance been to you? 

Dance has been an extremely vital component of my life. Like I said I have been dancing since I was six. In fact, I was already coming to TFA as a toddler while my sister was learning dance. Dance is my passion and my way of connecting to the divine. It gives me a sense of happiness and satisfaction. And it keeps me going in life.

What made you join the Shanthanjali Team as its Publicity Head, instead of just being one of the Festival performers?

TFA has been pretty much my second home for many many years. I felt that after so many years, instead of just dancing, I should also contribute in other ways. I was approached by Aunty Sheela and Raman from TFA, and I decided to go ahead. I’m very fortunate to have people like Shivanesh Somasundram and Regina Tuazon, along with Ramanan Thiagarajan and Swathi Sathish on the team as well. They have certainly played a big part.

How has your experience been so far, in juggling dance practices and your publicity duties?

Honestly, it has been extremely difficult. That is why I had to give up being in all the other dance performances and only held on to Patanjali.

On the publicity front, has there been any interest from our local media?

The support isn’t that great. Its quite a pity. Instead of getting approached by them, I really had to chase and beg to get something out of the media instead. I approached Straits Times, Tamil Murasu, CNA, Oli 96.8, 93.8 live and Vasantham. Tamil Murasu is helping us with a post coverage. I have listed SFA on Straits Times’ Communities Online. Straits Times also said they may put us under their calendar of events. So did Taalam, and Indian Beat. But no response from the others unfortunately.

Last, what do you wish to tell our readers about this festival and why they should attend?

Do take time to come down and support SFA. As we all know, the arts industry in Singapore is very niche but rich. Hence it is sad to see how little support is given by the media. Many artists and organisations are coming together under one roof for SFA, and it will be an enriching experience. Please give us your fullest support so that we can have more SFAs annually and create new milestones for the arts in Singapore.

Event Details:
Shantanjali Festival of Arts

Hong Lim Park

Fri, Nov 28: 6.30pm – 10.00pm
Sat, Nov 29: 10.30am – 9.00pm
Sun, Nov 30: 10.30am – 9.00pm

Admission is free.

About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.

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