Nisha Tanden is the executive director of ArtsEkta, having founded the organisation in 2006 after discovering a gap for quality ethnic arts engagement in the sector. With 'Ekta' meaning ‘uniting’ in the Indian language, Tanden is understandably vocal about the multi-award winning enterprise’s dedication to strengthening and deepening relationships between different cultures and communities through their ongoing roster of arts-based events, festivals and workshops.
As one of the only organisations on the island of Ireland dedicated to promoting ethnic arts, culture and heritage, Nisha believes the collective has a responsibility to enhance the practice, understanding and appreciation of ethnic arts within an educational context.
Perhaps the best known event affiliated with ArtsEkta is the Belfast Mela (coming from the Sanskrit word for 'meeting'), which any of its attendees over the past seven years will surely describe as a feast for all the senses.
An unmissable highlight of Northern Ireland’s smorgasbord of festivals, the Mela celebrates identity through a unique programme of music, dance, food and visual arts. Perhaps most importantly, as Belfast’s Botanic Gardens spring to life year after year in an explosion of fun, fashion and colour, the emphasis is always on bringing together and promoting a large number of cultures through the arts.
Aside from the Mela, ArtsEkta also hosts Diwali and Samhain (a two week long celebration of Indian and Irish arts) and the Festival Of Colours, which has seen thousands of attendees taking part in what is one of the most vibrant and energetic events of the year.
A little further from the public eye but equally important (if not more so) is ArtsEkta’s ongoing work within schools and in communities through their outreach programmes.
Under the title of 'Cultural Coach', the organisation provides arts and intercultural workshops to people of all ages, which not only encourage people to further their imagination and creative skills, but serve to awaken consciousness and curiosity towards other cultures, actively challenging racism and sectarianism.
Working with a committed team of freelance artists hailing from around the globe, ArtsEkta is a prime example of how the arts can be used to effect real world positive change, while bringing fun and colour into people’s lives along the way.
By Peter McCaughan