Last year, the ancient city of Polotsk became Belarus’ first cultural capital and hosted various festivals, performances by the country’s best artists, competitions and national and international exhibitions. In late January 2011, Belarus’ second largest city — Gomel — took up the ‘cultural baton’
The Cultural Capital of Belarus event, announced last year, aims to make the nation’s highest cultural achievements accessible to everyone in the country. The experience of other European countries has been used to develop the project. In 2010, Polotsk hosted over 50 landmark events, including performances by the Belarusian State Dance Company, Khoroshki, and the band Pesnyary, as well as exhibitions of Napoleon Orda’s lithographs, Ivan Khrutsky’s pictures and a range of other exciting events.
The city of Gomel, which is 869 years old, is situated on the banks of the River Sozh. It has been justly honoured as a Cultural Capital of Belarus, boasting 47 cultural institutions, including theatres, museums, picture galleries and libraries. 94 of Gomel’s historical, artistic, architectural and archaeolo-gical artefacts have been acknowledged as cultural treasures.
Gomel is famous worldwide for its festivals and international competitions, including the Sozhski Karagod Festival of Choreography, the Golden Lynx ballroom dance competition, Pevcheskoe Pole choral competition and others. The Student Shlyager contest of vocal and instrumental ensembles is already popular, as is the Easter Festival — a multi-genre marathon of events, uniting art schools, general education institutions, colleges and universities.
“We call Gomel a city of festivals,” noted representatives of Gomel’s Mayoral Office proudly after the official ceremony to mark the passing of the title ‘Cultural Capital of Belarus’ to Gomel. “Over 20 cultural events have already been scheduled, but that won’t be the limit. There will be many interesting and unusual events for Gomel’s residents and visitors to enjoy.”
Gomel’s Rumyantsev-Paskevich Palace will soon launch this year’s cultural events. It will host the Palace Fiesta-2011 — a presentation by the new Belarusian-Italian centre, planned for creation in co-operation with foreign partners. The evening will also feature the opening of the Belarusian-Italian exhibition of contemporary art. On the Night of Museums, the palace and park estate will host a laser show accompanied by symphonic music.
In May 2011, the International Slavonic Theatre Meetings Festival — preparations for which have already begun — will feature in Gomel’s cultural agenda. The festival began in 1989, having grown out of a society of leading theatres from the border areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Over the years, the event has grown considerably with the addition of major theatres from Moldova, Lithuania, Abkhazia, Poland, Germany and Israel. This year’s festival will focus primarily on stage performances based on works of Slavonic drama.
The 6th International Sozhski Karagod Festival of Choreography, launched by the Mayoral Office of Gomel in 1997, has already become a well-known event, dedicated to the most energetic and festive of artistic genres — dance. It traditionally welcomes adult amateur choreographic groups performing various types of dance. Classical dancers and international dance champions are usually invited, as well as professional dance groups and ballet troupes.
The three-day programme usually offers a wide variety of events. As a rule, a solemn opening ceremony is organised at the city’s central stadium, with live performances from the shows’ participants delighting the audience. Open-air stages host ballet, folk and modern dance competitions. The whole of Gomel turns into a dance floor for the three days of the festival. This year, Sozhski Karagod will bring together groups from 15 countries, offering spectators the opportunity to admire an ice show, a fire show, Irish dances, Alla Dukhova’s Todes ballet and Sukhishvili National Ballet of Georgia.
Several interesting international projects will take place at the Rare Book Museum in Gomel Regional Library, as well as at Gomel Regional Philharmonic and Gavriil Vashchenko Picture Gallery. Exhibitions from the collections of the National Art Museum of Belarus will go on show, alongside exhibitions from the collections of foreign embassies accredited in Belarus. Days of Foreign Cinema in Belarus are also scheduled.
The opening of renovated cultural sites in Gomel, including a new exhibition hall and a City Cultural Centre, will be a pleasant surprise for Gomel’s residents and visitors to the city. In addition, the city plans to open a Museum of Autographs of Notable People (people who are connected in some way to Gomel and have left their mark on its history).
By Violetta Dralyuk
Cultural year in focus
[b]Last year, the ancient city of Polotsk became Belarus’ first cultural capital and hosted various festivals, performances by the country’s best artists, competitions and national and international exhibitions. In late January 2011, Belarus’ second largest city — Gomel — took up the ‘cultural baton’[/b]The Cultural Capital of Belarus event, announced last year, aims to make the nation’s highest cultural achievements accessible to everyone in the country.