The Growth

The arrival of Bengalis in Perth continued through 80s and by late 80s there were a significant number of Bengali families. In 1987, the BMCC, supported by Department of Arts, organised an international cultural exchange inviting well-acclaimed “Mamata Shankar Ballet Troupe” for Australia wide performances. The project was a huge success with performances on two consecutive weeknights at Octagon Theatre, UWA (University of Western Australia). The project captured significant footage in the local press as well as in ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

During the late 80s, interest in the lessons organised by BMCC faded away due to lack of sustained commitment. The centre existed through the 90s, but its activities were limited. The social gatherings though continued and evolved in an informal organisation called Bangla Samity. However after a short-while, during 1991, the name was changed to Bengali Association of WA (BAWA).

Spurred by the success of the Mamata Shankar project, BMCC organised performances of Daksha Seth (in association with ISWA) and Ramya Harishankar and supported other groups to organise performances of Sanjukta Panigrahi, Anup Jalota and Budhaditya Mukherjee during the 90s. Bengali radio programs (as part of Indian language program Sangam) started during the late 80s, and are still continuing. Starting late 80s and through the 90s, newsletters and magazines were published sporadically.

In 1991, Bangla Samity in association with BAAWA (Bangladesh Australia Association of WA) and BMCC organised celebration of Tagore’s 130th birth anniversary at Fremantle Town Hall staging its first ever drama Khyatir Birombona, first ever children’s drama Dakghar and first ever dance-drama Chitrangada, all during the same evening.

In 1992, under the auspices of ISWA a successful play Maya Jaal in Hindi, where half the participants were Bengalis, was performed at the site (it was just a huge shed then) which was to become Nexus Theatre.

During early 90s, apart from Saraswati Puja and Mahalaya, Poila Boisakh was celebrated on a regular basis. BAWA was incorporated in 1994 after its constitution was drafted and passed in a special general body meeting through stormy debates.

In 1994, BAWA organised its first Durga Puja at Australia Asia House. The idol was crafted by a local young Bengali engineer. And there was no looking back. Durga Puja has grown manifold during the last 2 decades. In 2001, Bengali Association of NSW donated a small idol to BAWA and in 2006 BAWA arranged to get its own idols from Kumartuli.

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