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Hub News Exclusive | A French insight into Wangala Festival, Garo bonding & roots

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Tura, Nov 10: The 100 Drums Wangala Festival of the Garo Community has etched a name for itself in the world’s cultural map for being a unique tradition that is vibrant and colourful. The efforts of the state to promote the cultural fest has ensured that its beats have echoed far and wide, attracting locals and tourists alike to witness the exhilarating beats that resound with the rich cultural heritage of the Garo people.

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This annual celebration not only serves to promote the unique Garo tradition but has also become a symbol of unity and pride.

As hundreds of tourists flocked to this year’s Wangala Festival at the Baljek Airport in Jengjal in West Garo Hills, some 30 kms from Tura, Hub News got in touch with Andre Wowkonowicz, a French national who is visiting the enthralling festival for the second time, to learn about his experiences and learnings from the festival and of the Garo community.

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Here are the excerpts from the interview:

Q: Hi Andre, tell us about you and how you came to this festival?

Ans: I am Andre Wowkonowicz. I am also Tour leader for a French group and this is my second time coming to the Wangala 100Drums festival. I’m from Paris, France. I am guiding 13 people from France. So happy to be here, it’s a great experience to be with the people here.

Last year I liked it so much I thought, ‘oh I should come again but with more people (laughs)’.

One Garo lady gave me this (showing Garo traditional bracelet and ear piercing), it’s a unique experience to have this kind of fest, bonding and culture.

Q: How do you feel coming to Garo Hills to attend this festival?

Ans: Now with the war, fighting everywhere, you have a peaceful area. How fortunate we are to see all these in a peaceful environment.
I work in the music Industry and I travelled around the world, and coming to this festival is so so nice and peaceful.
People recognise me and say ‘oh you come again’, I say yes; and I wanna tell you I am coming next year too.
It’s been 18 days that I have been here in India. I’ve been to Assam, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh. People here are so close to the nature. It’s so peaceful to see them.
In France, we are so far from nature. We are into money and this and that. But here the people are still connected to the roots of the country and Mother nature.

Q: Have you tried the local Food?
Ans: Yeah, I tried the food this morning. While coming I was offered local food and also local beer here. I even like the dress worn by the locals.

Q: Do you like the local Rice Beer (Bitchi)?

Ans: Oh, good, good, good. I drank a lot last year. And this year I’m going to try again. I tried this morning after the (Rugala Ritual). The Rice Beer is completely pure, no chemicals; it’s all made by people and I like it very much.

Q: So you will be coming next year, so will you be bringing more people from France?

Ans: I am so surprised because I see other French groups. Because I have 14 French in my group and I see many others mostly French and others from nearby countries. So, total of 25 French nationals are here.

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This year, the festival is being held at Baljek Airport in Jengjal, about 30 kms from Tura town. The Wangala festival is traditionally held at Wangala A’dam in Chibragre. The venue had to be shifted because the approach road via Chibragre picnic spot has submerged due to rising water levels at the nearby Dam.

Friday was the second day of the festival. Saturday will be final day of the festival and the revelries will be at its peak with several important dignitaries in attendance.

Also Read: In Pics: Garo Hills’ enchanting winter drums up delightful beats; Baljek welcomes thousands for Rugala ceremony

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