South Asian performing arts organization preserving the culture of Little India along Devon Ave

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ByWill Jones via WLS logo
Thursday, August 25, 2022
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The Mandala South Asian Performing Arts organization is focused on making sure Devon Avenue doesn't lose its South Asian flair.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For Pranita Nayar there are few places as special in Chicago as the one mile stretch of Devon Avenue known as Little India on the city's North Side.

"I come here and I feel like home," she said.

Nayar is the founder and executive artistic director of Mandala South Asian Performing Arts. She said the organization is focused on making sure Devon doesn't lose its South Asian flair.

"Our largest goal is to create a platform, a professional platform for South Asian artists to be presented in the best way possible," Nayar said.

Although Mandala has been conducting cultural programming in the neighborhood for years at the Indo-American Center, they recently moved their offices to Little India from downtown.

They said they want to make more of an impact in the Devon-area, where people have roots not just in India, but also in countries like Pakistan and Nepal.

"There are divides among these communities and we really see arts as being essential to bring dialogue and create solidarity amongst these groups," said Ashwaty Chennat, Mandala South Asian Performing Arts associate artistic director.

Mafat Patel has had a firsthand look at the changes in this neighborhood over the decades. He opened the Indian grocery store Patel Brothers on Devon in 1974. Patel said maintaining South Asian culture in this area is paramount.

"The Mandela Center is bringing culture. We don't want to lose our own culture," he said.

There are many South Asian restaurants and shops along Devon. Nayar is hoping Mandala will attract more people to the neighborhood with their cultural programming. And when they come, she said she will encourage them to stick around and explore.

"If they are coming here to see a performance, they will eat dinner here. If they're coming to take classes, they may want to grab a cup of coffee, a samosa. They may want to shop for their groceries while their children are taking classes," Nayar said.