On the evening of Thursday, June 6, more than 300 people attended the opening reception of the Houston Arts Alliance Folklife + Traditional Arts Program’s “Anointed and Adorned: Indian Weddings in Houston” mixed-media exhibition, featuring the photographic work of Sohil Maknojia, audio interviews by Rati Ramadas Girish, and videography by Dylan Reid. A few of the exquisite Indian weddings on exhibition were coordinated by Therese Cole-Hubbs of Electric Karma International, who is well known for bringing the “wedding experience” to life.
The photographs in the “Anointed and Adorned” exhibition portray five significant features of the Hindu wedding ceremony: 1.) the antarpat (a screen that symbolizes the still separate lives of the bride and groom; when that screen is lowered, the couple is garlanded in a gesture that signifies their union), 2.) the kanyadaan (a ceremony in which the bride’s family signifies the transition of their daughter and their blessing of this new relationship to her prospective groom), 3.) the mangalsutra (a wedding necklace that the groom fastens on the bride as a metaphor for the eternal bond into which the couple has entered), 4.) the pheras (the process in which the couple circles the havan, or ceremonial fire, to signify the aim of righteousness, prosperity, love, and spiritual enlightenment in their lives ahead), and 5.) the saptapadi (also known as: “the seven steps,” the couple takes seven literal steps to represent the vows they share upon entering married life).
At the opening of the exhibition, Maknojia and Girish were accompanied by internationally acclaimed dancer, choreographer and master teacher Rathna Kumar. Kumar provided bridal attire donned by seven protégées of her dance school, Anjali Center for the Performing Arts, in an informal fashion show representing seven distinct Indian wedding traditions—ranging from the regions of Bangladesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Hyderabad, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.
In attendance were Bibi Magazine’s Zeb Mamsa, HAA Board members Suresh Raghavan (with wife Sasi and son Shyam), Fatima Mawji (with mom Roshan Jivray), Michael Treviño (with daughter Margot), John Guess, Jr., and Minnette Boesel. Also on hand were Judy Nyquist, Divya and Chris Brown (with her parents Ajit and Vimla Paralkar and sister Rima), University of Houston’s Lois Zamora and Carl Lindahl, HAA CEO Jonathon Glus and Alton LaDay, Mickey Rosenau and Dr. Ellen Gritz, among many, many others.
For the opening reception, in addition to the beautiful exhibition itself, there were fresh rose petals scattered along the walls and other ephemeral art by Sangita Bhutada. Bhutada also created an original five-foot in diameter rangoli (a geometric design made with vibrantly colored sand) on the gallery floor, along with an altar that was ornamented by flower garlands and a bronze statue of Sri Ganesha at the entrance to the gallery. Soniya Gheewala Ekici of The Original Henna Company applied mehndi (henna designs) to guests’ hands. Complete with champagne, live drumming and festive Indian music by DJ Rocky, the opening was reminiscent of a wedding reception itself!
The blend of sights, smells and sounds transported and charmed visitors as they learned about the artistic Hindu wedding traditions that have evolved to reflect the modern American environment.
The exhibition is part of the “Remembered, Regained: Immigrant Arts of Houston” series (curated by Pat Jasper and Angel Quesada) and is currently on view until July 12 at the Alliance Gallery, 3201 Allen Parkway, Suite #125, Houston, TX 77019. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Friday 3:30-5p.m., and by appointment at 713.581.6120.
Photo Credit: Alexander’s Fine Portrait Design