Festival of ethnic arts, culture and heritage
Belfast Mela (the word comes from the Sanskrit for ‘meeting’ or ‘uniting’) was launched in 2007 by the critically acclaimed and pioneering ArtsEkta organisation in a bid to showcase and celebrate Northern Ireland’s increasing cultural diversity. Today the project has grown beyond all original expectations and Belfast Mela is not only celebrating world diversity but is taking its place as one of the province’s hottest, fastest growing tourist attractions.
The Mela will return in 2014 bigger and better than ever.
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What is a Mela?
Mela is a Sanskrit word meaning 'to meet'. It is used in the Indian subcontinent for all sizes of gathering and can be religious, commercial, cultural or sports. In rural traditions melas or village fairs were (and in some cases still are) of great importance. This led to their export around the world by south Asian diaspora communities wishing to bring something of that tradition to their new countries. The Kumbh Mela, held every twelve years, at Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain is one of the largest fairs in India, where over 60 million people gathered in January 2001, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.
In modern usage outside South Asia it has become a term that shows widespread diversity of interpretation, just as has been the case in South Asia. One can find a Nepalese mela in the USA or a Bengali mela in London. For many it is a wider intercultural (though mainly Asian) festival incorporating music, dance, food and other aspects of mainstream culture. Mela provides opportunities for bridge building and community building and can perform a strong socially cohesive function
The Belfast Mela
The Belfast Mela was created in 2007, by ArtsEkta, Northern Ireland's leading ethnic arts organisation. It has since become established as an unmissable highlight in Belfast's festival line-up and has rapidly reached status as Northern Ireland's largest multi-cultural festival, attracting a collective number of 200,000 visitors over seven years. Although Melas traditionally have a strong south-Asian focus, ArtsEkta have adopted the concept with a unique multi-cultural focus with the festival promoting a large number of cultures through the arts.
Mela is an artistically led celebration of culture and creativity, inspired by local and international talent and celebrates identity through a unique programme of music, dance, food and visual arts. The festival has grown in size with audiences increasing for 5,000 to 25,000 over five years and is endorsed across the community/voluntary, public and private sectors in Northern Ireland.To find our more visit www.belfastmela.org.uk