Surajkund International Craft Mela in Haryana, India |13 June 2023
Seychelles team describe participation as “a great experience”
Artisans in the country have for the past couple of years been participating in the annual Surajkund International Craft Mela in Haryana, India thanks to the Indian high commission in Seychelles and the then National Arts Council (NAC), now the National Arts and Crafts Council (NACC) of Seychelles.
This year it was no exception as a new group of 19 took part in the 36th fair held from February 1-19, 2023.
Led by craft director at NACC, Juliette Albest, the Seychelles delegation to the 36th Surajkund International Crafts Mela 2023 comprised 14 performers of the L’Echo band led by band leader Berno Cedras and four artisans, namely Henri Talma, Merna Woodcock Lablache, Guy Sabury and Estelle Pool.
“We had thousands of visitors coming to our craft stand and this was beyond our expectation. It was unbelievable. It was a great experience for the artisans and for L’Echo band as well. For that I would like to thank the Indian high commission and NACC for making it possible for us to attend the fair,” Mrs Albest said.
The Surajkund Mela features regional and international crafts, handlooms, and customs, as well as cuisine and music from across the world. It attracts over a million tourists from India and throughout the world. The fair also allows the participated countries to network through sharing of ideas and exploring prospective possibilities in terms of exchange and exportation of their products.
In their thousands every day, the visitors at the fair were able to view and buy the works of the Seychellois craftsmen which included a variety of products such as candles and soap with its holders made from coconut shells, seashells, coco-de-mer shaped artefacts, raffia made photo/picture frames, bags and purses made from pandanus leaves (vakwa), artificial flowers from coconut fibre (tanmi koko), wooden tortoises, magnets and key rings among other items. They also enjoyed live performances by L’Echo band who performed a series of traditional sega / moutya music and dance. The band performed alongside more than 50 other music groups from other countries in shows that ran from 8am to 8.30pm.
The four artisans said they had an unbelievable experience to cherish given that they had never before participated in a big international fair with so many people attending.
“We all wish that we could attend again but we know the chance is for other people to also participate. We all managed to sell everything we had and this was beyond our expectation,” said Mrs Woodcock Lablache, who specialises in vakwa and coconut fibre artisanal products.
“What surprised me over there was that I did not see too many foreign tourists. All of our artisanal items were bought by the Indian tourists. It was nice bargaining with them,” said Henri Talma who specialises in small souvenir artifacts in the likes of tortoises and coco de mer made of wood.
“Although we missed some acoustic drumming equipment which were not available, we put on a great performance during the two days we had to perform – Tuesday and Friday – to the delight of the cheering crowd. We felt proud to have performed our cultural music and dance alongside the countries that participated. Our music and dance were well appreciated and it was a great experience for us,” Mr Cedras said.
The newly accredited high commissioner of Seychelles to India, Lalatiana Accouche, also visited the Seychelles corner and attended the live performances by the L’Echo band. She also hosted the delegation to an official dinner.
L’Echo band returned in the country on February 9, 2023 while the rest of the team came back on February 21, 2023.
Compiled by Patrick Joubert