Ingenious Assam festival seeks to blend tea industry with folk culture

Hatipoti (Assam): Captivating performances depicting Assam’s rich culture and heritage light up a small tea garden every year, as folk artistes from far and near gather to create an alternative narrative for the ailing tea industry of the state.

folkTea’, a two-day annual event held at the tea garden in Biswanath district, also provides a platform to struggling folk artistes of the region and beyond, chief organiser of the festival, Mrinal Talukdar, told PTI.

“We attempt to drive home the point that the tea industry must create new vistas to sustain, and entwine with the local culture to preserve the folk elements of the state,” he said.

The 2022 edition of the festival, held in the last weekend of November just before the pruning season in tea gardens, was a capsule of Assam’s folk culture with the traditional Bhaona’, Sattriya’, Tokari Geet’, a mime play and folk song and dance performances by the Garo, Mishing, Bodo and tea tribe communities, Talukdar said.

People came from as far away as Delhi to witness the event, organised under the aegis of the Nanda Talukdar Foundation, he said.

“The artistes performed without artificial lights or sound, under the open sky with a campfire and hurricane lamps,” Talukdar said.

Filmmaker Reema Borah said it is an innovative way to showcase folk culture.

“I was mesmerised. To sit under a moonlit sky inside a tea garden, surrounded by earthy lamps and watch folk artistes perform is an experience that will be etched in my memory,” the FTII alumni and director of films Bokul’ and Noi’, said.

According to entrepreneur Manoj Basumatary, the festival is a great platform for the tea industry and folk artistes, and it must be sustained.

Bhaskar Hazarika, a tea planter of Hookhmal tea garden, added: “The ethos of ‘folkTea’ is a concept of blending tea, spirituality, folk culture and adventure into one package, offering something to everyone.”

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