Virtual festival celebrates multiculturalism

Ethno Fest 2021 brings cultural visibility to the community

Ethno Fest 2021 is an ongoing digital festival presented by U Multicultural with the aim of preserving languages and promoting culture.

Supplied photo

Many in-person festivals and local shows were postponed throughout the summer due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Cultural events that often take place during this time of the year transitioned to digital platforms.

Although these virtual experiences might feel different, one festival in particular still gives “attendees” the chance to listen to music in multiple languages and learn about cultural traditions in Manitoba.

Ethno Fest 2021 is a U Multicultural initiative to further elevate underrepresented voices and give them a digital platform to share their own stories. U Multicultural’s mission statement is to broadcast programs and events that preserve languages, promote culture and allow people to speak freely about their backgrounds. The festival was one of the ways that the media platform was able to integrate with local ethnic groups during the pandemic.

“When we faced COVID, we understood that communities really need this project ... Ethno Fest is a way to promote languages, culture, traditions and to teach a wider community about diverse backgrounds and worldviews,” Taya Rtichsheva, the executive director of U Multicultural, says. “For Ethno Fest, we produce a series of short films, interviews and stories that focus on various aspects (of culture), including history, food, dance and music.”

The online celebration started last month and will continue until Sept. 30. Programming is available through the U Multicultural channel on Shaw Multicultural, U Radio and on the organization’s website. Ethno Fest 2021 is divided into categories ranging from music performances to short stories presented by people within the local Latin American, African, European, Indigenous and Asian communities.

Sharan Tappia, founding member of the Asian Women of Winnipeg organization, discussed some of the content that members of her community made to emphasize Asian cultural traditions through Ethno Fest 2021.

“This year, because of COVID, we couldn’t bring many other performers or volunteers, but our board members participated in the cooking segment and Ethno Dances, a section for dance videos in the festival. They also showed how to make some crafts, henna tattoos, and they put on a fashion show. We were definitely happy to participate,” Tappia says.

She also spoke about how the festival acknowledges the importance of sharing multicultural customs to the masses, especially during a digitally driven era.

“On the main media, it is really hard to accommodate everybody,” she says. “In our different cultures, we find so much more exposure with this (festival), and people feel honoured to showcase their values and what is important to them.

“Ethno Fest is playing a great role in this, because people feel so motivated to be in the media, and they prepare themselves, because they know that they will be valued.”

Submissions for Ethno Fest 2021 are open until the end of September for any members of ethnic groups who would like to contribute to the festival. To participate, access or contact [email protected].

Published in Volume 76, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 16, 2021)

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