Whose Diwali is it? The case of the Indian Community and Auckland City Council
This paper interrogates the ways that governmental agendas may affect the representation and expression of cultural identity. I trace factors that have transformed the production of Diwali, in Auckland, New Zealand. In 1998, Auckland Indian Association (AIA) started a public Diwali celebration responding to the rapidly growing Indian community population and needs for collective expression and enjoyment of one of India’s most important cultural celebrations. Government support, beginning in 2002, recognized the potential political and economic benefits of cultural celebrations by launching Diwali: Festival of Lights with AIA. By 2004, Auckland Council had gained increasing control over all aspects of event production practices. By 2013, the local Indian press was reporting voices of dissent concerning Diwali’s Bollywood/Panjabi content, noting that the representation of Indian performance culture is now determined by management decisions made by the Council and their selected sponsors. Government support has become government control, transforming a community celebration into a “Major Civic Event” that executive decisions seek to align with larger tourism and economic development strategies. The altered Diwali festival management structure has disenfranchised the local community and the power of community representation. This study demonstrates how power enables as well as constrains musical performance and cultural identity.