Digital Diwali – November 2020

Another impact of Covid-19 has been on how museums engage with their communities. In previous years, the Oriental Museum has hosted large-scale Diwali celebrations on site, attracting over 400 students, staff and people from the local community. In 2020 the celebrations moved online, and museum staff found new ways to get people involved. We invited people to create videos showcasing how they celebrate Diwali, what this time of year means to them, their favourite food and recipes and reflections on how things will be different this year.

We had a wide range of video contributions, everything from a recipe for Shoji no Sheero (semolina pudding) from a student member of Durham University Hindu Society to a Sikh member of staff discussing what Bandi Chhor Divas (Sikh Diwali) means for him and his hope for a return to a more environmentally sustainable celebration.

The centrepiece of the event was a Facebook Live stream of Lakshmi Puja – prayers to the Goddess Lakshmi. To date, 290 people have watched the Puja on Facebook and more via our Explore From Home website. The feedback has been wonderful.

Below, Kelly talks about her family’s experience.

Prior to lockdown, my family have always enjoyed the impressive events organised by my colleagues at the Oriental Museum.  We’ve attended many events at the museum over the years including Diwali, Lunar New Year and Holi Festival.  They are such a fantastic opportunity for my two young sons (and me!) to learn about the different cultures and what is important to them in our local community and beyond. 

Diwali has always been one of our favourite events – the message of finding light in the darkness is one that really resonates – especially in 2020.  In previous years, I’ve always been so thankful for the communities who celebrate Diwali as part of their religion (Hindus, Sikhs and Jains), for sharing the experience; it is so clear how important and special it is to them, and online, this year was no different – the live prayers at 7pm felt so personal and I felt privileged to be able to view online.  My 7-year-old little boy was absolutely amazed at the number of prayers, running off to tell his dad: “they have to say ONE-HUNDRED AND EIGHT prayers!”.

We were able to make an evening of Diwali Online, watching the videos carefully prepared by the team and the community – we particularly enjoyed the story of Rama and Sita.  The boys were inspired by the story and they used the templates provided on the webpage to create their own shadow puppets – they really took their time colouring them in and cutting them out.

Kelly’s children watched the Diwali videos and created a Rama shadow puppet.

Last year, we were treated to some delightful Indian cuisine upon arrival at the museum – and this year, although I didn’t prepare the recipes provided on the Oriental Museum site on the evening, I am definitely intending to try them soon – the Kadai Paneer recipe looks particularly delicious so I think that will be a lockdown treat over the next couple of weeks. 

Charlotte Spink & Kelly Hetherington – November 2020

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