Salem, Mass.—On March 10 and 11, the Peabody Essex Museum welcomes the colorful sights and sounds of Holi, India’s annual spring festival. Atrium Alive: The Art and Culture of India features artist demonstrations, music performances, film screenings and hands-on art activities for the entire family. Weekend highlights include a lecture by Shashi Tharoor, award-winning author and United Nations under-secretary-general, and a contemporary dance production choreographed by PEM educator Sudarshan Belsare.

Held in conjunction with two ongoing exhibitions at the museum, Epic India: Paintings by M.F. Husain and Of Gods and Mortals, the weekend event explores Indian tradition and its connections with the present. (See exhibition descriptions below.)

All programs are free with museum admission. Atrium Alive: The Art and Culture of India is sponsored by The Desai Family Foundation, Samir and Nilima Desai.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Artist Demonstration | Madhubani Painting

11 am – 4 pm | Atrium

is a folk painting traditionally done by women from the Mithila region of northeast India on walls and floors of the home using both natural and vegetable dyes. For centuries, this tradition was passed on from mother to daughter, then in the 1960s, artists started painting in this style on paper and canvas. Today, Madhubani paintings are collected around the world, yet women in Mithila still decorate and celebrate their families and lives with these paintings on their walls.

Artist Demonstration | Rangoli
11 am – 4 pm | Atrium

Participate in creating a celebratory rangoli – a floor decoration using rice powder, sand and dyes. Rangoli are created in Indian homes to welcome guests during festive occasions and feature abstract designs as well as images of animals, gods, and nature.

An Afternoon with Veena Artist Durga Krishnan
Student Performances | 12 noon | Atrium

PEM welcomes Durga Krishan’s most skilled, young veena students for a performance celebrating Carnatic (South Indian classical) music.

Music Performance | 2 pm | Atrium

Durga Krishnan is New England’s most sought after veena artist and teacher. With unparalleled skill and passion for sharing South Indian Carnatic music, she performs this stringed instrument in the Atrium.

Workshop | 3 – 3:45 | East India Marine Hall
Reservations required by Thursday, March 8, 2007. Please call 978-745-9500, ext 3011

Learn a Carnatic melody using your own instrument – violins, clarinets and other instruments are welcome!

Drop-In Art Activities
1 –3 pm | Art Studios

Learn to play this Indian circle and cross game, and then create your own game board using fabric.

Block Printing
Using traditional prints from India, decorate scarves and other textiles with printing blocks and vegetable dyes.

Lecture | Mr. Shashi Tharoor
4 pm | Morse Auditorium

The 2,000-year-old Mahabharata has been told and retold for centuries and continues to inspire contemporary artists. Shashi Tharoor, whose award-winning The Great Indian Novel retells the Mahabharata as a saga of 20th-century India, explores why the epic continues to offer creative resonance today. Tharoor has worked for the United Nations since 1978, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, at the UN Headquarters in New York, and as executive assistant to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In June 2002, he was confirmed as Under-Secretary- General for Communications and Public Information of the United Nations.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Artist Demonstration | Madhubani Painting and Rangoli

Atrium | 11 am – 4 pm

See March 10 entry.

Drop-In Art Activities| Parchisi and Block Printing

1 –3 pm | Art Studios

See March 10 entry.

Dance Demonstration | Bharatanatyam Dance
1 pm | Atrium

Dancers perform in the bharatanatyam style of dance, a two-thousand year old classical dance for South India that combines dance with theater and storytelling. After, learn a few steps for yourself!

Performance | The Mahabharata
2 pm | East India Marine Hall
Reservations required by Thursday, March 8, 2007. Please call 978-745- 9500, ext 3011.
Appropriate for all ages.

Community performance group Khel Mel explores the fables of the Mahabharata.

Explore Indian art, culture, and history through film. All films are shown in Morse Auditorium. Reservations suggested by Thursday, March 8, 2007. Please call 978-745-9500, ext 3011.

The Maharajah Burger
12:30 pm (50 minutes)

This documentary takes a wry look at the cultural confrontation of East and West, as reflected in attitudes towards the cow. In India, the cow is revered and cared for well beyond its prime. We see a hospice where cows spend their last days in comfort. When MacDonalds opened up in New Delhi, featuring the Maharajah Burger, there was outrage at this affront. To many Indians it is a symbol of Western cultural imperialism – Western greed undermining traditional values in India. One elderly maharajah hopefully observes that the Indian culture has survived thousands of years and will not succumb to this latest onslaught.

The Temple of Doom
1:45 pm (49 minutes)

The film examines the complex relationship between India’s Muslim population and fundamentalist Hindus, who lived harmoniously in the city of Ayodhya for centuries. A contemporary conflict, however, could continue to bring bloodshed. Violence that erupted in the late winter of 2002 in northern India left 600 people dead and hundreds of Muslim homes in ashes.

The Laughing Club of India
3 pm | Directed by Mira Nair (35 minutes)

Award-winning director Mira Nair has created a compassionate, sometimes ironic portrait of a number of "serious laughers" who meet daily in their pursuit of happiness. Five years ago in Bombay, Dr. Madan Kataria decided to find out whether or not "laughter is the best medicine." He gathered together a group of patients and neighbors to meet daily to laugh. After a time, Dr. Kataria found that the participants experienced improved health and decreased levels of stress. Thus was born across India the phenomenon of laughing clubs that have since spread to Europe and to the United States.

Dance Performance | Unquiet Epics
3:45 pm | Atrium

Sudarshan Belsare, artist, dancer, choreographer and PEM educator, presents the world premiere of Unquiet Epics, a classical and contemporary dance production inspired by the Mahabharata that explores the battle between the five senses of the human condition and the hundred desires in the external world.

Related Exhibitions

Epic India: Paintings by M. F. Husain

Through June 3, 2007

The Mahabharata is one of India’s oldest and most beloved epics, and the source of stories and teachings that have been part of life in India for two thousand years. M. F. Husain, India’s best-known contemporary artist, first painted a series of works about the epic for the 1971 Sao Paolo Biennale. His vibrant imagery depicts the battle between right action and temptation—central to the Mahabharata— in the language of artistic modernism. Drawn primarily from the Peabody Essex Museum’s Herwitz Collection of contemporary Indian art, the exhibition features 19 works inspired by Husain’s 40-year fascination with the Mahabharata.

Of Gods and Mortals, Traditional Art from India

In India, art is part of the fabric of daily life. Paintings, sculpture, textiles and other art forms are used in religious practices and to express prestige and social position. The Peabody Essex Museum has recently tripled its gallery space for Indian art in order to reveal the rich diversity of the country’s artistic tradition. Featuring works from the 1800s to the present, this inaugural installation includes the delicate embroideries, fine portraits and devotional images prized by maharajas, merchants, farmers and laborers.


PR Contacts:

April Swieconek  -  Director of Public Relations  -  978-745-9500 X3109  -

Whitney Van Dyke  -  Director of Communications  -  978-542-1828  -

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