Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Mela festival: Our girl tries her hand at dressing up the Indian way

Belfast Mela will be an extravaganza of noise and colour this weekend. With three days to go until this year's event gets under way, Rebecca Black was given an exotic makeover by its volunteers.

They're beautifully hand-embroidered dresses in vibrant colours - the same type of garments that would sell for thousands as Paris couture.

Some of the very latest in Asian fashions have been flown into Belfast for this weekend's Mela celebrations, and are available for just a snip of that price tag.

I felt like a child in a sweetie shop faced with racks of these beautiful clothes – both for men and women – being organised by Mela volunteers for the global souk section of this year's event.

While I was drawn towards more conservative colours, Mela volunteer Rama Sharma took one look at me and pulled out a stunning pink number.

Mrs Sharma may not have been able to communicate with me verbally, but we found the language of fashion was universal.

She is one of 65 volunteers at Mela from a host of traditions.

Mela organiser Nisha Tandon said volunteering was a great way of giving people who may feel isolated in the community an opportunity to meet others and get involved with something they were passionate about.

The clothes on sale at Mela range from £5 to £60 and are all made by people working in social enterprises in India. The money made from the sale of the clothes will go directly back into those local charities.

One of the other many experiences available at Belfast Mela is henna art.

Nisha showed me how it was done, delicately creating the intricate design.

"In India the tradition is that this is done for your wedding, it is also used by the Muslim community for weddings," she said.

"Henna is the colour of love so the darker the henna turns out on your hand, they say either your husband or in-laws will be loving you more.

"It has become very big for weddings in India, and now it has become a fashion in India. In the olden days it was only in certain parts of India that henna was given out, because it has that Muslim influence.

"True traditional south Indians would never have got henna done because of the Hindu religion, however now it has become a fashion accessory."

Belfast Mela takes place in Botanic Gardens this Sunday from 12-5pm. Admission starts from £5 per adult.

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