Multiculturalism from north to south

By: Danica Lorer February, 2014

Multiculturalism is a cause for celebration. Two Saskatchewan communities were among those hosting multicultural gatherings as part of Culture Days in September: Tapestrama has been part of the cultural fabric of Prince Albert for almost 40 years, while the Collage Cultural Festival is a relatively new event in Estevan.

The Prince Albert multicultural Council began as a cultural dance group 50 years ago. In 1976, when the Council started Tapestrama, it began as an ethnic dinner and it has continued to grow over the years.

"Prince Albert is a bridge for the northern region of Saskatchewan. Tapestrama brings in people from the north to join the cultural activities. It's a positive way to bring people from all nations together," says Xiaofeng Zhang, assistant executive director, Prince Albert multicultural Council. "It really fits our mission, it brings together ethnic, religious and cultural groups." The Council offers cultural events including a concert series, as well as settlement support services, English for employment classes and community consultations.

According to organizers, one of Tapestrama's greatest challenges is increasing attendance numbers. The festival has moved to the E.A. Rawlinson Centre for the Arts, and in 2013 attracted 1,800 guests over two days.

Further south in the province, the Collage Cultural Festival in Estevan was hosted in 2013 by southeast Newcomer services. The organization has been in Estevan since December of 2010, offering services to newcomers to Canada, which include access to information, referrals and other help. The Collage Cultural Festival was first hosted in 2010 by southeast enterprise. In 2011, organization of the event was taken over by the local chamber of commerce and was suspended in 2012. In 2013, southeast Newcomer services held Collage in conjunction with the Estevan showcase Business expo. The festival attracted approximately 1,250 people over three days.

Tapestrama and the Collage Cultural Festival both offer something for audience members of all ages and interests. Sights, sounds and tastes from around the world are crowd favourites. "Food booths are a popular way to taste the life from other cultures," says Melanie Mantei, information services advisor, southeast Newcomer services. Some of the groups serving food are involved with local restaurants. The dishes served at the festival are special and not normally found on the menus.

Mantei appreciates the popularity of the festival, the gratitude of the guests and the enthusiasm of the volunteers. The future looks positive for the Collage Cultural Festival. "Our community is getting so diverse, it will be something that will be an important part of Estevan and our region," she says.

Zhang describes the importance of Tapestrama in the community of Prince Albert. She says there is a blueprint for longevity in these types of events. "There's a warm feeling of welcoming and sharing. That's a very important thing,” she says. “It's not about the dance … it's not about the food … it's about relationships. Sharing is what culture is all about, so people can learn to respect each other and learn each other's cultures."