For many communities, tea is much more than a simple drink. It is an opportunity to relax, spend time with family and loved ones and to converse and share ideas.
With their sixth annual Multicultural Tea Fest (MTF), the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA) aims to emphasize the role of tea in both cultural and religious communities.
Executive director of the ISSA and chair to Islamic Month Canada, Shahina Siddiqui says that after the Canadian government proclaimed October to be Islamic History Month in 2007, her organization wanted to expand the opportunity for creating safer spaces in Winnipeg.
“We wanted to bring all the cultures together, not just Muslims but also countries with Muslim minorities, around tea,” she says.
“Tea has a lot of significance in our cultures.”
Hosted at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain on Oct. 27, the event will showcase 20 cultural kiosks, including a Japanese tea ceremony, Lebanese folk dances, Bosnian accordion performances and a children’s cultural fashion show.
Siddiqui says this family-friendly event provides a safe space for neighbours of all cultures to come together.
“As a small city, Winnipeg still has a community feeling,” she says.
At MTF, “we highlight this, and a popular response we get from the audience is that the world is in one hall. Even though there may be countries that are at war with each other back home, they are now side by side (in this space). This showcases Canadian multiculturalism in a very intimate way.”
Siddiqui says events like these are important in starting conversations and hopefully removing the stigma surrounding immigrants and Muslims that can be perpetuated in Western media.
“Sometimes when we talk about xenophobia or Islamophobia, it is in a very serious environment,” she says.
“But here we (tell everyone to) come, talk, ask, get to know one another and when we talk over tea, we are relaxed. The only way we are going to overcome (these negative stigmas) in our country is when people begin to speak with one another.”
Urooj Danish, office manager of the Manitoba Islamic Association, agrees and says, “this is a great opportunity to be more approachable and for people to understand and appreciate our differences.”
“Events like this help people to understand the reality of different (cultures and religions). (People from different cultures) are not fundamentally different, and they are not less of a human if they cover their head a certain way, or it does not make them better or worse than anyone else. Everyone is the same.”
Danish says although this event is hosted by the ISSA, it is open to everyone.
“They are not entertaining any specific community,” she says.
“Anyone in Winnipeg who enjoys diversity and wants to see the beauty of different cultures (is) welcome.”
MTF takes place on Oct. 27 at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain located at 340 Provencher Blvd., and the event runs from 2 to 5 p.m. General admission is $10.