Global cultures collide in Kingston

Sixth Annual Multicultural Arts Festival celebrates ethnic diversity and welcomes immigrants

Four young Nepalese dancers smile at the camera following their performance of traditional Nepalese dance at the sixth annual Multicultural Arts Festival.
From left: dancers Minarwa Shrethsa, Abbu Bhandari, Simran Bhandari and Aastha Sah representing Nepal at the sixth annual Multicultural Arts Festival.
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Young girl sits on the grass at the lakeside during the Multicultural Arts Festival.
Nine year-old Tasha Coe attending her first Multicultural Arts Festival.
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Three people stand on the main stage during a World Drumming performance.
Yessica Rivera Belsham (left) leads the World Drumming performance on the main stage.
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A vibrant and raucous celebration of Kingston’s culturally diverse communities took over Confederation Park last Sunday, with art, dance and food from around the world.
 
On Sept. 6, during one of the last truly warm days of the summer, the glistening lakeside was home to the sixth annual Kingston Multicultural Arts Festival (KMAF).
 
The event was presented by the Kingston Immigration Partnership (KIP), an initiative funded by the federal government to make local communities more welcoming for immigrants.
 
From just before noon until 6 p.m., the main stage on Ontario St. outside City Hall held a lineup of culturally diverse dancers and musicians, many of them coming in from Toronto for the day’s festivities.
 
KIP Facilitator, Sunita Gupta, said the celebration is part of a community-wide effort to make Kingston welcoming and warm for newcomers.
 
“Our partnership is about doing the broader work between newcomers and the general community, such as bridging gaps between institutions like Queen’s and St. Lawrence and immigrants,” Gupta said.
 
“We want to help break down barriers and make everything more welcoming for them.”
 
The day’s acts varied from traditional Chinese and Nepali dance by Kingston’s Cultural Associations, who opened the day’s performances, to a grand finale Bollywood dance performance by The Shiamak School of Dance from Toronto.
 
Ten different cultures appeared during the day’s events, each of them colourfully diverse, to represent Kingston’s welcoming atmosphere for new immigrants.
 
Gupta said she hopes people attending the festival for the first time come away feeling amazed by the level of diversity and vibrancy in Kingston’s communities.
 
“We’re not the GTA, but we have lots of different cultures and ethnic communities,” she said.
 
The non-ticketed family event also let festival-goers experience the diversity of these cultures with their own hands. Pavilions housed workshops to make Indigenous dolls, learn a traditional Latin guitar song, make their own piñata or dabble in the art of Chinese calligraphy.
 
Gupta says the City should be providing ongoing funding for events celebrating Kingston’s multiculturalism. Currently, the Multicultural Arts Festival applies annually for a grant from the Kingston Arts Council.
 
“We shouldn’t have to wait one year to go by to celebrate Kingston’s cultural diversity,” she said.
 
“We should have ongoing City support for people to truly understand the significance of events like this. This should be happening all the time.”

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