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Tandin Bidha: The Grace of Bhutan

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Tandin Bidha, leading actress from Bhutan sheds more light about the film industry in Bhutan and her life and experiences in the Himalayan Kingdom. Tandin Bidha is one of the most popular actresses in Bhutan and has worked in various national award winning films.

In this interview with Modern Diplomacy, Tandin sheds more light on the film industry in Bhutan and its growth over the years.

31 movie titles in your name spreading across different genres. Also, a two time National Award winner for Boom Batha Chenmi Renzi and for Chi Sem Chi Lu. People and critics alike seem to love your versatility. How did it all start? Did you imagine being the most recognised face in the industry and achieving an illustrated career in a short span?

It all started when I was helping my mother out in her restaurant. A well known director of Bhutan walked in, he saw me and something clicked. He immediately told me that he wanted to cast me in a film because I looked like an actress. I did not know anything about acting then because Bhutan does not have an acting school. I waited to get a call from him for 3 months. There was no call. One day he called me and gave me a role as a supporting actress. Even if I wasn’t the lead in the first film, it meant a lot to me and I decided to take it up. I then got many leading roles. I am truly grateful to my stars for aligning at the right time. I have given acting my best shot and I work really hard to be where I am.

Do you plan to carry forward that persona and art international anytime?

I am open to everything. I have never once thought that I can or cannot do this. I don’t plan my life like that. I generally see where life is going, let opportunities come my way, and when something clicks, I do it. Being open to things is the key to being successful, don’t shut any doors in life till you are sure that it isn’t for you, till then navigate and explore life through.

How important do you believe it is, to have a good work dynamic and a mutual understanding between an actor and a director? Do you personally think a good director helps an actor grow?

I believe that a movie is never about one person, it is about the entire crew. We all mutually depend on each other to get things done. I don’t believe that a single person can create or take credit for a movie alone, it takes an army of people to do it. I am grateful to my crew and everyone working on the same team as me for working really hard behind everything that goes in. I believe that good actors and good directors help each other in numerous ways. All relationships should be mutual and everything is centric on growth.

You seem to have a very positive and optimistic approach towards life and towards work. Despite all the fame and fortune, you lead a very ‘normal’ simplistic lifestyle. What fuels that inside you?

Most of the people of Bhutan are very simple. We all believe in living a life filled with the sentiment of community. I am an actress on screen and a human above anything. I believe in leading a simple life because that is all that counts. I enjoy spending time with my son. I also like reading in my free time. In Bhutan, for showing my films in theatres, I have also been to counters to sell my own film tickets. I deeply love Bhutan because I can be myself here.

You have been an avid reader of some really interesting books ranging from soul searching, inspirational women, The Buddha, the Mitch Albomesque emotional sort. Tell us more about some other books that you would recommend everyone should read in their lifetime. What is the book you are currently reading?

I really love reading books. I went through a divorce a few years ago and I was in a really dark phase of my life that time. I felt disconnected with the world. However, one day I picked up a book and I started reading it. After that, I have read so many books because I feel like books hold the key to life. I have also started a book cafe in Bhutan because I want the youth to read more books and get all the knowledge out there. I really love books and I recommend the youth to read books everywhere.

You have also travelled a lot. Your favourite destination so far and why is it special?

The more I travel, the more I realise how great Bhutan is. I love Bhutan the most. I have been to several countries worldwide, but I really love Bhutan the most. People here may not have dominos or burger outlets, but we are really in touch with ourselves and we love this country a lot. The more I travel, the deeper my appreciation grows for Bhutan.

Aamir Khan from India has always been a champion of rights in the national and international arena. You met him in one such similar event. What did you discuss? What other actors, male and female, do you look upto in India? If given a chance and if an amazing script comes your way, would you be interested to be a part of an Indian project?

I would love to work with actors in India. I met Aamir Khan at an event in Bhutan. I went to him and I told him that I’m his biggest fan. He was very humble and he told me more about his work. It was a great conversation. I respect him a lot.

OTT platforms are taking over the world. Do you think cinema in Bhutan can reach more people through this medium?

I believe that Bhutan has some wonderful stories which need to be shared with more people across the world. We do not have a film school so most of the people here are very raw in the film domain. However, we are all willing to learn and explore new avenues. I think Netflix is a great platform to share stories of Bhutan with other people. However, there are certain restrictions on the platform regarding quality of filmmaking, which Bhutan will have to match if we want our films there. Overall, I really would love for our country to have some representation on Netflix. I would love to take a lead in that domain. I really want our stories to be shared with the world.

What message would you like to give your fans who look up to you and your work?

I want to tell everyone that do not let go of your dreams even if it looks like it may never happen. It will happen when your stars align. I want to tell the youth to hold on to their dreams strongly and to keep working hard for it. If you work hard, one day, your efforts will be recognised. Never let go of your dreams.

Vidhi Bubna is a freelance journalist from Mumbai who covers international relations, defence, diplomacy and social issues. Her current focus is on India-China relations.

Arts & Culture

Bengal’s Thriving Cotton Handloom Tant Textile Crafts Looming

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India being a diverse nation endorses and nourishes indigenous ethnic crafts. Every region of India has to offer thriving cultural heritages, a few of those receiving the attention of the mainstream population, while several are failing to do so. Once glorified Bengal’s Handloom Tant Textile Crafts falls into the second category, as it’s lost the place to be under the spotlight. Even though “Every Handloom Tant Textile Crafts has a unique story to tell—as it is inheriting one of the finest and ancient weaving mechanisms that sprouted in nowhere other than Bengal. Dating back to the 15th century and leaving remarkably earliest trace from Nadia District of West Bengal Handloom Tant Textile Crafts received Royal patronage and retained popularity throughout centuries. Its uniqueness lies in design which mostly includes the depiction of ancient Bengali cultural influences and reflection of Bengali flair. In that sense, Handloom Tant Textile Crafts are very much connected to the soil of Bengal and utterly reflects sustainable, indigenous initiative within the millennials weavers of Bengal, who still feel connected to the ancient essence.  

Origins

The word ‘Tant’ indicates the cotton-based Handloom Textile Crafts, includes Handloom weaved Textiles including Saris, Cloth pieces, Dupattas, Bed Sheets etc.

Shantipur of undivided Bengal, now in Nadia district of West Bengal having earliest record of Handloom Tant Crafts weaving back to 15th century. It remained dominant cultural tradition from 16th to the 18th century and received extensive royal patronage along with the world-famous Muslin and Jamdani Sari of the same genre. In 1947 after the partition of Bengal, a hefty number of weavers migrated especially from Tangail Bangladesh to India and received rehabilitation in different regions including Phulia, Shantipur. Weavers bore their lineal Handloom Tant Textile weaving Crafts with them. Residual weaver communities got settled in the Hooghly and Bardhaman regions of West Bengal. Since then, each region has developed its signature style.

The weaving Technique

Handloom Tant Textile Craftsare woven with locally produced Bengal cotton. The kind of fine handspun yarn being used for Weaving of Handloom Tant Textile Crafts once applied in weaving soft, feather-light Muslin and Mulmul textiles that have been exported and adored globally for ages. The fineness of weaved cotton depends on the yarn quality and it is on the yarn that the textile is fine (combed cotton) or coarser (regular cotton).

Cotton being deftly woven to the thread is further being woven by craftsmen to Tant Textile. It is customary to use shuttles. Though nowadays handlooms have largely been replaced by power looms to weave Tant Textiles, which compromising the quality of Tant Textiles pushing environment-friendly, electricity-saving Handloom on the verge of extinction.

Popular motifs in use

The most popular Handloom Tant Textile Crafts product is Sari. The handloom Tant Textile crafts products other than Sari also depict motifs like Sari. A quintessential six-yard Tant Sari is distinguished by a thick two-to-four-inch border and a decorative Aanchal. Weavers use fine cotton yarn to manifest a variety of floral, paisley, and artistic motifs, attached to the culture of Bengal. Some of the most adored time-honoured motifs of West Bengal’s Handloom Tant include bhomra (bumblebee), tabij (amulet), rajmahal (a royal palace), ardha Chandra (half-moon), chandmala (garland of moons), ansh (fish scales), hathi (elephant), nilambari (blue sky), ratan chokh (gem-eyed), benki (spiral), tara (star), kalka (paisley) and phool (flowers), etc. Apart from these regional trends are being followed.

Why Handloom Tant Textile Crafts losing the interest of the mainstream population and what are the way forward?

Because of the advertisement and marketing industry the youth generations are mainly inclined towards high-shine clothing, heavy silks and zari, ignoring or being unaware of clothing science and technology. Handloom Tant Textiles, in comparison, is a modest, soothing clothing based on environment-friendly technique which add real charm to Tant. Elderly people are not even aware of the positive aspects of Handloom Tant Textile Crafts, due to no such promotion leading the Crafts to evade.

What is in particular in Tant to rethink its revival?

Handloom Tant Crafts comes under the range of heritage textiles of West Bengal. Sari-loving Indian women would certainly like to acquire collection of handloom saris from across India. While Handloom Tant Textile Sari would certainly give the blended feeling of heritage and comfort. Most of the Sari-wearing Indian women find themselves particularly attached to Bengal’s Handloom Tant and Jamdani Sari. Jamdani Sari belongs to the same genre of Handloom Tant. Tant Jamdani from Dhaka and Shantipur is exceptionally lightweight, characterized by intricately designed motifs that seem to float on the surface of the translucent ultra-fine textile, giving it an almost mystical grace in appearance.

Moreover, Handloom Tant Textile Crafts are comfortable to wear in tropical climatic zones of the world. Tropical, subtropical climates of the Indian subcontinent are exceptionally fine to wear and use such textiles. While most of the raw material being used and the technology being followed in Handloom Tant Textile Crafts is nature friendly and indigenous for the subcontinent. Revival, then on the restoration of the lost glory of Handloom Tant Textile Crafts of Bengal will certainly promote environment-friendly sustainable textile technology basing on the growth of the home-based cottage industry of West Bengal. Employing Indian youth in the process may revamp the initiative in the way Handloom Tant Textile Crafts would get a modern outlook and that will generate youth entrepreneurs to promote indigenous industries and a lot more positive things would happen in this row.

How important the present time is to preserve Handloom Tant Crafts? what could be the way forward?

As an economic industrial activity, the ‘Tantshilpa/Tant Crafts’ (the art of weaving handloom Textiles) is second only to agriculture in providing a livelihood to the people of certain regions of West Bengal. Ravaging the hope of business in Bengali New Year on April 14, 2020 the ongoing pandemic and ensuing lockdown have led to insurmountable losses to Textile Industry. Handloom Tant Textiles also facing a tremendous challenge for decades losing the interest of younger generations owing to its traditionalism and maintenance cost.  The need of the hour is to activate retail for existing stock using e-commerce and involving youth to regenerate the work chain and boost business. The genesis of interest towards such heritage and endangered craft like Handloom Tant Textiles can restore the sentiment and attachment of weavers’ communities. 

Organizing regular workshops with the weavers offering creative concept and textile design expertise in developing an ongoing collection of modern Tant saris and textiles that can bring the Handloom Tant Industry on-trend. While Tant is a versatile and comfortable fabric especially suited in the climate of India and considerable places of the world and also lends itself well to soft furnishings home decors cum comfortable garments.

Classified Handloom Tant Textile Crafts are being picked by authentic celebrities, dignified women. To revive the Indian Economy in the post-pandemic global crisis, promotion of indigenous Industries based on the authentic handmade, handloom, and traditional crafts are the way out, which is also environment friendly. ‘Make in India’ and ‘buy local’ is more relevant now than ever before, as each locally-made purchase directly supports indigenous industry, regional to global work circle, in turn, funds its makers, that is, the craftsmen/women in every level.

The hands that nourish tradition, indigenous crafts need to be celebrated. Direct connection of remote areas Handloom Tant Textiles weavers with well-structuredHandloom Tant Textile Craftswork chain is the way forward that less known regions areas of West Bengal like Santipur, Phulia, Nadia, and Dhaniakhali get counted in the global map of Textile industry representing the glorious Handloom Tant Textile Crafts of Bengal.

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Copenhagen named UNESCO-UIA World Capital of Architecture for 2023

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The city of Copenhagen has been officially designated as World Capital of Architecture for 2023 by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, on the recommendation of the General Assembly of the International Union of Architects (UIA).

This decision is in keeping with the partnership agreement established between UNESCO and the UIA in 2018, through which UNESCO designates the host cities of UIA’s World Congress as World Capitals of Architecture. “We are very happy to see the torch of the World Capital of Architecture title pass to Copenhagen from Rio de Janeiro,” Audrey Azoulay said. “The inaugural World Capital of Architecture in Rio was a real success, underlining the important role of urban planning, notably in the pandemic context”, she noted, adding that “Copenhagen will build upon Rio’s achievements, by continuing to show the way in which architecture and culture can respond to the challenges of our time, especially in the environmental field.”

UNESCO and the UIA launched the World Capital of Architecture initiative to highlight the key role of architecture, city planning, and culture in shaping urban identity and sustainable urban development. Every three years, the city designated as World Capital of Architecture becomes a global forum at the forefront of discussions on contemporary urban planning and architectural issues.

As the World Capital of Architecture for 2023, Copenhagen will host a series of major events and programmes on the theme “Sustainable Futures – Leave No One Behind.” In cooperation with the Danish Association of Architects and various Nordic professional bodies, the municipality will examine how architecture and urban design contribute to meeting the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

From 18 to 22 July 2021, Rio de Janeiro will host the World Congress of Architects online. Following Copenhagen in 2023, Barcelona and Beijing are the two contenders looking to claim the World Capital of Architecture title in 2026 and host the next World Congress. The official decision will be made later this year.

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The Italian Federation of UNESCO Clubs for the enhancement of linguistic diversity

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An important initiative of the Clubs for UNESCO, belonging to the FICLU in the context of the protection and safeguarding of linguistic minorities, a conference entitled “Gallo-Italian, Occitan, Franco-Provençal in Italy and in Europe: an itinerary to discover of the traces of an ancient heritage.” was held.

Thanks to the usual method of telematic communications, it was possible to contact numerous experts and researchers, all directed towards the defense of linguistic diversity in a real journey of discovery that is promoted by the Clubs of Piazza Armerina, Enna, Acicastello, Giarre-Riposto, Sciacca, Sanremo, Udine, Altamura, Cerignola, and Vulture in collaboration with FICLU, chaired by Arch. Teresa Gualtieri, and coordinated by Anna Maria Di Rosa Placa, president of the Club for Unesco in Piazza Armerina and Vice President of the Euro-Mediterranean Federation.

The FICLU National President, Arch. Teresa Gualtieri, opened the meeting and emphasizing that starting from that moment, the FICLU will devote an increasing attention to the theme of linguistic diversity, considering this is a priority for UNESCO which has its ultimate goal: the construction of peace and implement it by protecting diversities, and organizing them in a single world human community. “In this context”, the National President continued, “languages ​​are a fundamental cultural heritage to be protected and stimulating the study of the local language in schools through tools such as the UNESCO atlas of languages – created to identify and protect the languages ​​that are disappearing. As a heritage of diversity, in which for Italy the Galloitalico, the Occitano and the Franco Provençal are included.”

Prof. Salvatore Trovato, linguist and president of the Association for the Knowledge and Protection of the Gallo-Italic dialects of Sicily, explored the inherent importance of the dialect as a vehicle for a culture. He underlined the need to involve the new generations to bring them closer to dialects, promoting their knowledge. In this regard, he spoke of the Galloitalico of San Fratello, brought in the Middle Ages by the Normans and Aleramici, who contributed to making this language strong in southern Italy, especially in Sicily, where there are numerous linguistic islands in alloglot. In addition, the illustrious speaker highlighted how the words describe the trades practiced by the new colonizers, thus helping to better understand a people and its social structure. Finally, he explained that the etymology also allows us to go back to the history of a people, in the absence of written documents, to explain some characteristic elements of that given period.

Subsequently, Prof. Patrizia del Puente, director of the International Center for Dialectology, intervened, “you reported that at the University of Basilicata, there are already dialectal literacy courses, a project linked to the Centre and carried out together with Cambridge, Oxford, Pisa, Udine and Palermo. You spoke of languages ​​as a treasure trove of the identity of a people, of the importance of teaching them also in schools, but through mother tongue experts; you underlined the contact with Palermo by the great Lucania, where the Gallo Italici came rebounding from Sicily, bringing the language still present today in a vast area of ​​the Potenza province, as the eminent dialectologist Rohlfs had already claimed and demonstrated.” In conclusion, the professor also supported the importance of maintaining a diversity that is enriching.

Very interesting was the interlude in which it was possible to listen to Eleonora Bordonaro, singer-songwriter in Galloitalico, who had the opportunity to know a series of poems of San Fratello, the so-called Lombard songs, containing facts connected to that culture. Coming from the plain of Catania in the Sanfratellana area, in an attempt to keep the roots alive, she dedicated herself to listening to local speakers, assisted by them to learn the language and enliven it with new significant contributions.

For the Galloitalico, a large contribution was offered to us in the Potentino by Antonio Cuccaro, who recently published the booklet “Unpublished Galloitalico. Dialect, speakers and peasant civilization in Basilicata”, with the aim of arousing greater involvement in this linguistic phenomenon through research, ideas, intuitions and dialectal comparisons. Formerly an official of the APT of Potenza, he was coordinator of the project “The Gallo-Italic dialects of Basilicata” created by Prof. Maria Teresa Greco of the University of Potenza, with the establishment of a network between the municipalities of Potenza, Picerno, Pignola , Trecchino and Vaglio.

The ideal journey among linguistic minorities then moved north to Occitan territory, between Liguria and Piedmont, where Occitan is still spoken. The first to speak was Prof. Franco Bronzat, Occitanic, who, in his brief speech, spoke of this language not of immigration, but which has always been present in both the Italian and French Alpine areas. There are over 12 million inhabitants of which three or four million are still speaking the language. Despite the still large number, however, there is no university chair and he hopes that this language, the first to be written and sung, can find at least some itinerant teacher.

Another speaker from the same area was Dr. Gianni Belgrano, president of the “A Vastera” association of the land of Brigasca who, together with Prof. Roberto Moriani, author of the Vocabulary of Brigasque culture, spoke about the attempt to preserve the present language in various centers in France and Liguria and became entirely French after the rectification of the borders in 1947. In this context it is a real attempt to recover the roots of a people and, Roberto Moriani himself, spoke of how much the brigasco is saved despite being a further minority within the Occitan landscape. A language that straddles the Gallo novel and the Galloitalico.

Prof. Rosa Talia, member of the Cerignola UNESCO Club, took part in the conference with a speech entitled “The Franco-Provençal area in Puglia: Faeto and Celle di San Vito.” Once again the language recalls a particular historical fact: with the arrival of Charles of Anjou, 200 soldiers settle in the area, between two Benedictine monasteries, who fortify a castle and are later joined by families. It goes without saying that the spoken language, in this case an archaic Franco-Provençal, remains alive in the area. The recovery of this experience is still witnessed today by a Franco-Provençal branch in the province.

Fabrizio Di Salvo, President of the Euro-Mediterranean Federation of Ancient Medieval Migrations, spoke instead of his great interest as a free researcher in the migration of peoples. Starting from the history of our species, homo sapiens, he highlighted how much the nature of the traveler has also characterized the predisposition to create numerous forms of linguistic admixture. Going into the specifics of migrations in Italy, he wanted to emphasize the various linguistic islands of alloglot: the Walser of Germanic origin in Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta with their language Titsch; the Ladins in the Dolomite areas between the provinces of Trento, Bolzano and Belluno; the Albanian minority Arbereshe in southern Italy (in Calabria and in Piana degli Albanesi in the province of Palermo); the Croatian one in Molise; the Franco Provençal in Puglia in the territory of Valmaggiore, on the Daunia Mountains in the province of Foggia; the Waldensian Occitan’s at Guardia Piemontese in Calabria; Salento Greece; up to the Galloitalico in Sicily and Basilicata. Just to mention the best known. An extraordinary mixture and fusion, a mixture that for every researcher is a splendid opportunity for observation. Noting that these components make it possible to break down barriers and bind peoples with greater tolerance, he spoke of the importance of the Federation as an experiment to keep alive the interest in the union of peoples and the defence of minorities.

Concluding the work, Prof. Maria Simone, FICLU councillor, hoped that the clubs continue this path with support from the universities and that an action protocol be defined for the enhancement of the territories. Languages ​​preserve, like a casket, the traces of our history and our identity, preserving and enhancing them, according to a perspective of inclusion, helps to promote integration between peoples.

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