St Margaret's News March 2015 - Page 7

Capital - February 2015 Swadling new question arose: other than music/dancing and food, of what did the festival’s portrait of culture consist? Further, how would events at the festival impact on Canberra’s broader multiculturalism throughout the rest of the year? It was with these questions in mind that I next went to visit and tour the African Village. The music in the Village was more contagious, the colours brighter. I found myself drawn back to it several times during the afternoon. This had to do perhaps with the seating, comfortable and colourful. Bright lounge chairs and seat cushions had been generously provided by the sponsor, Ikea. became curious as to what type of individual would be capable of transcendental meditation within such effervescent and downright noisy surroundings. Approaching, I was not at all surprised to see the meditation seats empty. I was nonetheless pleased by the outward curiosity which many apparently middle-class and middle-aged Canberra citizens showed towards the concepts of transcendentalism portrayed by displays within the stall. Looking for clues as to the festival’s definition of culture outside of food and music, I noticed a placard next to the meditation station. It advertised an education seminar being held by the Bilingual Education Alliance in March 2015. A small Listening to a band billed as the and unassuming sign, it ‘Sounds of the Sierra Leone’, I nevertheless provided me with had an excellent vantage point evidence and necessary from which to witness the encouragement to continue afternoon influx of crowds, busier digging deeper for a translation than at the Island Showcase. of the broad term ‘culture’ into Apart from the great variety of solid community contexts. Over musicians and dancers on stage, the course of the weekend, I the African Village proved a would continue searching for remarkable forum for a great overlap from the festival into the commingling of international culture of the community. flavours. This sector of the festival was alive with a Walking the grounds of the multicultural buzz. African Village, I had a small insight concerning the Seeing the Sri Lankan Embassy constitution of culture. Thinking placed next to an Iranian food back to my observations of the stall provided another portrait of Pacific Islands Showcase international fraternity, as confirmed it: clothing as culture. customers mingled from stall to We are perhaps blinded to it by stall. The Republic of Kenya High the commonality of Western Commission was another site of clothing, but seeing people of great dignity and communalism. other cultures dressed in the styles of their homelands helped A brightly-attired carnival barker to pinpoint the importance of outside of the Sudanese dress to a sense of belonging. Community stall welcomed festivalgoers, inviting them in and Where the Islanders’ mode of responding generously to their dress had been earthen-hued, requests for photographs with the styles on display at the him. African Village were of bright pastels. The combinations of Seeing the Meditation Stall, I clothing in these settings, not St Margaret's News 7 found elsewhere in Canberra in such heavy concentration, provided a vivid portrait of multiculturalism and its varied aspects. As to the cultural makeup of the crowd at the Village: the morning crowds had been dominated by an apparently anglicised population, whereas the afternoon had brought the varied races of Canberra together. Various strands of African and Asian citizens enjoyed one another’s company, eating and chatting together happily. All of this occurred in front of an international variety of musical acts, which performed both on stage and in impromptu settings on the footpath. As I circuited the African Village for the third time, I made my final departure in the direction of the afternoon’s biggest event, India in the City, in Petrie Plaza. On my way there, I encountered an Ecuadorean street-band, playing on the footpath right by the carousel. Their buoyancy had the crowd elated, and a tall African woman, dancing ecstatically, further delighted passers-by. The entire festival was made up of these seemingly small, unbilled moments. In their testimony to multiculturalism, they were every bit the equal of the larger, administered events. On the following Sunday morning, within my home community of St Margaret’s Uniting Church in Hackett, the culture spoke of its experiences at the festival on the previous day. While many had experienced inspiration and elation, some wondered whether the Multicultural Festival had outgrown Civic. Would festival attendance and enjoyment be better served by a move to EPIC or Glebe Park? For this reason, March 2015