Pondicherry Heritage Festival to celebrate Franco-Tamil confluence


The seventh edition of the event, on till February 21, kicks off today with a series of offline and online events to celebrate the relationship

The seventh edition of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival (PHF) kicks off on Friday with a series of offline and online events to celebrate the signature Franco-Tamil confluence unique to the city.

Though the fete, that is on till February 21, is being hosted under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, the larger reach of live-streamed events to an audience beyond the bounds of the city presents the brighter side to the whittling down of programmes with physical attendance.

The PHF theme for the year is “Talking Streets of Pondicherry”, with several events designed to tap into the rich vernacular architecture of the Tamil Quarter, Satish Nallam, president of Alliance Francaise, told presspersons on Thursday.

This built heritage is fading as more Tamil houses get razed down to make way for modern structures. One of the principal aims of the festival would be to highlight the dire need to safeguard and preserve the Tamil precinct.

Apart from online events, the theme will also feature walks and bicycle rides to imbibe the idea of “talking streets” outside the Boulevard precincts.

The celebration of the town’s architectural legacy forms only one part of the festival, with various events designed to showcase the cultural heritage as well, said Kakoli Banerjee of People for Pondicherry’s Heritage (PPH).

The month-long festival is an occasion as much to celebrate the confluence of French and Tamil cultures as the friendship between France and India, said Lila Kernoua, director of Alliance Francaise, which is one of several organisations supporting the PHF.

Online conversations

One of the high points of the festival would be online conversations featuring urban planning experts on the path for Puducherry to attain the UNESCO World Heritage City status, said Arul, architect and co-convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

Among the experts hosted by the PHF are Saswat Bandyopadhyay, a key architect of Ahmedabad’s UNESCO application and Shikha Jain, INTACH convenor in Haryana.

A hands-on workshop about structural elements in the heritage buildings would sensitise the city’s builders and architects.

The French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), another partnering institution, is hosting an exhibition of the work of historian Jean Deloche, a Wetlands Photography contest and local food system workshop, said Cecile Hoorelbeke and Helene Guetat-Bernard of IFP.

Bitasta Samantaray of PPH said the creativity and entrepreneurship of craftsmen in the city and Auroville would be showcased as part of the “Made in Pondy” segment. This year, participants would be taken in small groups to the shops of the entrepreneurs.Since its inception in 2015, the PHF, as a collective, has only grown as a volunteer-driven, people’s movement and the flock of partner institutions pitching in to keep the festival going has kept increasing down the years, said Sunaina Mandeen from PPH.

Apart from the Tourism Department, the French Consulate, Alliance Francaise and IFP, the INTACH, PondyCan and local businesses are also supporting the festival.

The thrust on online events has helped expand the scope of programming. PHF 2021 has packed in 35 heritage-themed events for schoolchildren and another 30 for college students, she added. All events will be live streamed on the website of PHF and its social media accounts.

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