Spice People: Naufal Khan
Fourth generation South African of Indian descent, Naufal Khan, a creatively innovative individual of everything Indian
lifestyle, an African and Indian cultural activist who has been actively involved in the promotion of all elements Indian, South African and Asian in Africa. He is the Chief Principal of Ganesha Communications, a Public Relations and Events firm that has an invested focus in the promotion of Indo-African relations through the Arts and Culture sectors. We learn more about him and look at his professional career in retrospect.
What makes you love promoting Indian culture? Coming from a mixed background of faiths had a direct impact on who I am today. I spent many hours of my childhood with my grandparents, my mother’s side of the family being South Indian and my father’s side being Sunni Muslim.
I was exposed to two very different cultures, languages and beliefs. My Muslim grandfather was a visionary, an Muslim scholar of the highest regard in the Durban community. He is the sole founder of the Ashrafia Madressah, I never knew much about his public status until much later in life but his and my grandmothers values were instilled in me.
I spent most days after school being tutored in Urdu at home, learning the language was easy for me as this was the home language. I found my gift of writing from my grandfather, he is an author/historian of many Islamic publications that are still in use today in academic circles around the the world. He also contributed to 72 different texts that was translated into most African languages for Muslim faith education.
What about your South and North Indian influence of Hinduism?
My grandmother on my mothers side was Andhra, Telugu. She is and will always be the guardian of faith for me. On the days I shared with her as a child, I was taught every facet of Hinduism be it the beautiful tales of Radha and Krsna, the festival of Janmastami, Amman prayers, Thaipusam Kavady, Purtassi fasting no matter which side of the Hindu divide it was, she ensured I experienced it all. I am a Balvika’s student which taught me the core values of meditation and the essence of a calm state whilst in chaos.
Our family home was continuously vibrating with chants, her lounge was decked with old texts of the Bhagvad Gita, Ramayana, Tirrukural and many other holy books that she ensured I read. I also attended Service with her, spent days in the hot sun walking door to door collecting donations for our temple group the Kalay Kazhaham in Verulam, learning to speak Telugu and Tamil fluently.
Some of the religous chores included waking up early in the morning, preparing Hanuman’s corner washing his special place in the family court yard, learning the Hanuman Chalisa was fun as my Amma was devotional singer.
Abhishegams for Vinayagar, Sivalingam. We attended Maha Shivaratri for many years and spent many other years at home observing it at home. Preparation for Kavady every season was a big deal in my family, my grandfather is graced with the Arul of Hanuman and Muruga and that was one of the stepping stones to devotion.
Madressah or Service Groups?
I attended both, I eventually left Madressah as I got sufficient tutelage from my dhadhi (grandmother). My Amma as well spent most of her time teaching me everything she knew. I learnt how to write and speak Sanskrit over a few years and mastered the Hanuman Chalisa by the time I was 12 as Hanuman played a powerful role in our family.
Mosque or Temple
That is simple for me, its both. I visit the mosque for Juma and many other religious days and offer my obeisance to the Divine Lord in his many forms at temples as well.
Halaal on menu?
I am strictly Halaal but on the same note I do not indulge in beef or pork as I grew up respecting both faiths.
So where is the balance for you in terms of faith
Any person will find peace where there is harmony, you choose a path and stick to it. I spend my mornings meditating. I am a Balvika’s graduate, my spiritual devotion or Godhead is Sri Vinayagar.
You have been known for your passion of the Indian art disciplines
Again my families on both sides of partition contributed to this. My dhadha (dad’s father) exposed me to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his powerful renditions. I experienced the magic of Sufism when attending Sufi gatherings. I was entranced by the power of devotion through music and dance.
My affinity for South Indian music and dance followed at the same time, my hunger to learn about other forms of devotion spread like wildfire. My Amma’s home was constantly reverberating with morning Suprabathams, vedic chanting and other beautiful melodies, with her career as a singer from a young age, I picked up the interest in music.
We regularly attended Arangetrams of cousins, friends and events of the Nydoo Sisters School of Dance. The beautiful arts of Odissi, Kuchipudi, Bharata Natyam were some of my key passions. With a family that was so vested in Indian culture and language, you could not avoid being embraced by it.
More about Naufal Khan
His expertise in collaborative cultural activations, Indian business trend analysis, travel/tourism marketing, Indian business brand management, consumer behavior analysis and forecasting is recognized by various brands, blue chip companies, agencies and research labs including academic faculties across Africa, Europe and Asia.
Responsible for many outdoor event activations that demand a unique and specialized project management style to reach the Indian and African consumers.
Some of his recent projects include the Star, Vijay TV South Indian concerts with international playback singer, Mano. Khan adapted authentic Indian content performed by seasoned local artists and produced an Indian and African fusion production of an international standard that was recorded for international broadcasting on Vijay TV.
At current, he is working on the Kailash Kher concert in South Africa.
Khan’s intuitive management of brands through Indianspice.co.za the leading online Indian lifestyle authority is also responsible for the historic inclusion of Indian dance discipline into the 2012 South African Tattoo, a combination of South African and International acts. Joining over 600 strong casts in celebrating our modern South African culture.
The oldest Indian dance company, Anavarata Dance Institute, will be participating in the SA Tattoo 2012 with a mesmerizing 360 degree dance performance showcasing authentic Indian and African dance disciplines.
Annually his firm, Ganesha Communications facilitates the annual Indian Independence Day celebration in the business and cultural heart of Johannesburg.
The 2012 event being the most recent doubled in audience presence with a seasoned line-up of artists from India who performed at this international event.
The Shared History festival by Teamwork Productions also has intensive support from Ganesha Communications annually in efforts to promote and reach the South African community via the Indian lifestyle online authority www.indianspice.co.za
In 2009, Khan was approached by First National Bank to produce a new direction for the Festival of Lights, Diwali. This signature festival required a special innovation to bring African, Chinese and Indian culture together to represent a uniquely South African celebration.
Coincidentally, Diwali that year, overlapped with the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Ganesha Communications had the daunting task to gear a festival in the hub of a media frenzy that focused primarily on the World Cup.
With his guidance, the event was an enormous success positioning the brand of the FNB Diwali Festival as a brand ambassador for the celebration of Deepavali or better known as Diwali.
With this key festival, Khan had set the benchmark for other firms to match up to patron expectations and business demands. With 2010 celebrations a screaming success, Khan was commissioned again in 2011 to host many other festivals including the Tale of Two Cities project of the Sandton Diwali Festival in association with the London Diwali festival in Trafalgar Square, the Punjabi harvest festival Vaisakhi Mela and the Indian Independence Day 2011 by the India Club South Africa.
These events being some of the key festivals with a high level of focus on reaching the consumer, effective brand management, marketing and intensive Public Relations activity for Indian brands, promotion of Indian culture and heritage.
Khan, a South African with a blended Muslim and Andhra background approaches his profession with utmost respect for a diverse mix of communities, languages and stereotypes.
When in the presence of South Indian individuals he fluently switches his language to Telugu or Tamil to level his audience’s attention. Also when he needs to speak Arabic, Urdu or Hindi.
He regularly conducts workshops, delivers lectures and presents papers on Indian youth trend, business forecasts, Indian buying spend consumer analysis and on Indian culture. He is also the member of Moral Courage Project spearheaded by human rights activist, Irshad Manji, New York University.
With a professional career in Journalism, Khan also wrote for South Africa’s Sunday Times edition of the Extra. His insightful articles are further published through various local and international publications, books and academic institutes in Europe.
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