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Celebrating Diwali with Anu Sehgal of The Culture Tree

1/8/24

Interview

Celebrating Diwali with Anu Sehgal of The Culture Tree

Corporate leader turned cultural educator Anu Sehgal discusses her childhood in India and the artistic traditions of Diwali.

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We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the festival of light than an afternoon of Diwali arts and crafts co-curated by The Culture Tree!



Children and families created Rangoli coasters with Apnavi Pareek, founder of Buzy Bugs, while also enjoying bilingual storytime and puppet-making at Pier 57.



Below, we caught up with Anu Sehgal, founder and president of The Culture Tree and advocate for programs that bring the traditions of South Asian culture to life. A marketer by profession, Anu earned her MBA from Yale University and worked in the corporate sector for 15 years. She is the author of Kahaani Rangeeli, an interactive children's book that tells the colourful story of Holi with Krishna and friends.



Describe any memorable experiences of working with children during the workshop.


We are so thankful to CMA and Pier 57 for creating a multi-sensorial environment that replicated Diwali and all its festivities. It was so beautiful to share more about Diwali, its stories and about the practice of making rangoli. We heard songs from India, ate delicious festive foods of India, danced to the beats of dhol, and saw the quintessential visual of Diwali, the diya, at every corner of the pier.



Where are you from and what is the arts community like there?


I am from India, where we have diverse and colorful art from different regions. The art we focus on during Diwali is rangoli. Rangoli is an art form that originated in India, in which patterns are created on the floor using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals. It is usually made during Diwali and other Hindu festivals. Designs are passed from one generation to the next, keeping both the art form and the tradition alive.


The purpose of rangoli is decoration, and it is thought to bring good luck. Design depictions may vary as they reflect traditions, folklore, and practices that are unique to each area. Generally, this practice is showcased during occasions such as festivals, auspicious observances, marriage celebrations, and other similar milestones and gatherings.


Rangoli designs can be simple geometric shapes, deity impressions, or flower and petal shapes, but they can also be very elaborate designs crafted by numerous people.



Do you have a favorite memory of making art as a child?


I loved making art and taking part in art contests, which included hundreds of kids. Most of these art contests happened outdoors. I also loved using watercolors to make art.


What advice would you give to young artists who wish to pursue an art practice?


Keep practicing and have a focus. Go to art museums and constantly be inspired by great artists of the present and past.


How does working with children inspire you?


Children are extremely curious and forthright. I love sharing cultural stories with children and fielding their amazing questions.



Learn more about The Culture Tree here

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