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Looking forward to the fest

Thimphu residents will not run short of entertainment for about a week, as a plethora of artists, both local and international, congregate in the capital city for the biggest Bhutan international festival.

It is the first time the country is hosting an international festival, that too of film, music, art, food and sports.  It is indeed a big thing to look forward to.  It will be an enthralling experience, as the entertainment-starved city is consumed by a culture that is fast advancing everywhere.

For the average Bhutanese, when we discuss culture, we cannot get pass the image of wearing kabney and rachu, visiting dzongs and lhakhangs, playing archery on traditional equipment, and our handicrafts.  This imagery is strong, because culture forms the basis of our identity, and most Bhutanese have a strong sense of culture.

Culture, however, is fast evolving and now encompasses more and new elements.  We are now talking about a fast changing tradition in film and music, fine and performing arts, television and radio, live entertainment and even multi-media.  It is in this context that such an international festival is welcome.

Interestingly, those, who are coming to perform here, think highly of our culture and tradition.  This is reassuring that we are on the right track in our efforts to preserve our tradition and culture.  But when everything is evolving, so will our culture.  We are already experiencing massive shifts in the film industry, fashion and multi-media.

The festival will be a good platform for Bhutanese artists, as it will expose them to cultures from different parts of the world.  Exposure to the culture of music and dance, films and other media can enhance and enrich us.  The weeklong festival will bring arts to the forefront.  This is important, because our artists are left to fend for themselves, as this industry is not as recognised as others.

Where is the support to those taking arts as a profession?  A classic example is our performing arts.  The artistes of the Royal Academy of Performing Arts are one of the least paid lot.  They are artistes, but bound by civil service rules. Commercial films are thriving primarily because of the popular demand for something homemade.  How do we recognise people, who are in the creative industry?  Documentaries that highlight social issues do not sell.  There is no audience here.

The event is expected to help boost the tourism industry, and to promote Bhutan as an exciting travel destination.  The festival will certainly be a good marketing tool.  Bhutan is still cool in the eyes of the rest of the world.  Such a festival will draw the attention of the world to this unique country.

However, the end result should not just be profit making and benefitting a few promoters.  We would like to see the benefits trickle down to the artistes, who are the soul of the festival, and to the promotion of the arts in the country.

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