Diwali Celebrations


event Details

Join us to celebrate Diwali at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The day will be hosted by artist Sarah Dutt from the Kshetra Collective, with Rangoli activities, free henna tattoos by Mehndi artists and live performances of beautiful classical dances by Anuradha’s School of Indian Dances, which will take place at 11am, 12pm and 1pm.

Please note, henna tattoos require about 15 minutes to dry, during which you will need to stay seated in the Mehndi area before moving to other areas in the Gallery. 

What is Diwali?

Diwali is known as Deepavali after the clay lamps or diyas people lit to show Lord Rama the way to his homeland on the darkest night of the year. Like many Indian holidays, Diwali adheres to the lunar calendar, meaning the dates vary each year. It is celebrated by people of Indian heritage from many different religions, with each faith having its own historical legends and celebratory events. The holiday represents the symbolic victory of light over darkness and good over evil. For some, Diwali also coincides with harvest. It marks the start of New Year celebrations. The Goddess Lakshmi is also celebrated at this time. 

Sarah Dutt is of Māori (Ngāi Tai, Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou) and Fijian-Indian heritage. Her mother is from the East Coast of Aotearoa New Zealand. Her iwi and hapū stretch from Whakatōhea to Te Tairāwhiti. Her father’s ancestry originates in Gonda and Basti in Uttar Pradesh. Her great grandfather immigrated to Fiji during the Girmit in the late 1800s. Her grandmother was born in Trinidad and immigrated with her family to Fiji in 1906. Sarah’s father, Narendra (Rocky), came to Aotearoa New Zealand in the early 1960s. 

 Sarah’s creative practice started in the mid-1990s. She graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts with honours from the Te Toi Hou, Elam School of Fine Arts 2005. Her tutors were Selwyn Muru, Brett Graham, Ani O’Neill and Dante Bonica. She has worked in education since 2003. She taught Rauangi (visual arts) at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa with Dr Richard Cooper between 2003 to 2007. She is the New Zealand Curriculum Leader of Social Sciences at Alfriston College, where she has devoted herself to growing great people and the next generation of artists and game changers. Sarah is a founding member of the Kshetra Collective.  

The Kshetra Collective is a diverse group of New Zealand artists and creatives with Indian heritage. We the artists have extensive and respected creative practices in Aotearoa New Zealand and on a global stage. We embody a range of New Zealand Indian diversity rather than focusing on a specific group, religion or language within the Aotearoa Indian diaspora. 

Our Sanskrit name means sacred ground or hallowed ground. We challenge notions of the stereotypical and explore ancestral identity as a contemporary Indian diaspora for new audiences, beginning a new and necessary conversation with all communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our collective of artists explore the expansiveness of contemporary New Zealand Indian art through different artistic disciplines and practice. 

Anuradha Ramkumar, Creative Director of Anuradha’s School of Indian Dances also known as Nrithya Abhinaya School of Dance is a renowned dancer, gifted teacher and choreographer of Bharatha Natyam and Kuchipudi styles of Indian dances.

For the past 26 years she has dedicated herself to preserving and promoting Indian art and culture in India, Dubai and New Zealand, nurturing students from various ethnic backgrounds who have a keen interest and love for this art. Her school also provides scholarships for some students on a yearly basis to pursue their interest in in learning this divine art form.

Anuradha Ramkumar and her students have performed at many prestigious events including WOMAD (World Organisation of Music and Dance), Hamilton Theme Gardens opening ceremony, Haka meets Hindu (fusion of Maori and Indian cultures) and Parliament Diwali celebrations.

Mitalben Desai (Mital) is a Mehndi Artist who has worked on a number of Indian festivals such as the Auckland City and Auckland Museum Diwali festivals. She creates Mehndi for marriage and engagement ceremonies. Mitalben also volunteers her time and skills for the Yogi Divine Society Charitable Trust. 

Image credits: Meditation photo - Lion Beats Studio | Anuradha's school of dance group photo - Redbee | Henna photos - Sarah Dutt


Dance performance: 11am, 12pm and 1pm

Mehndi Artists: 11am-3pm



North Atrium