The Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo (MAWB) has moved its annual cultural festival online.
Usually, the organization would be hosting performances for Alberta Culture Days this year. With COVID-19 restrictions, “The World Meets in Wood Buffalo” event is now streaming on Facebook, rebranded as “The World Meets Virtually in Wood Buffalo.”
Since Monday, MAWB has been posting two video performances per day on their Facebook page. The posts will continue until Friday once 11 performances from across Wood Buffalo are online.
“We’re really proud of the variety of the performances this year,” said Therese Greenwood, executive director for the MAWB.
The cultural performances featured in the event include singing and dancing from the Métis, the Philippines, India, Nepal, Brazil and Scotland.
To participate, Greenwood said performers were given tips on how they could participate virtually and film performances on their phones.
“Some people cleared out their living room and made sure they had all kinds of light in there and some people did it outside in the backyard where they had lots of natural light,” said Greenwood.
Manorama, 15, and Vasundhara, 10, Joshi perform a Bharatnatyam dance, which originated in southern India, in their video.
For more than four minutes, the sisters skip and twirl to a fusion of pop beats. In an intricate and fast choreography designed by the sisters, their entire bodies do not stop moving as they carry out complex and synchronized movements.
In a video from the Fort McMurray Highland Dance Society, young dancers in kilts combine jumping strength with grace and symmetry to bagpipes.
For Greenwood, some of the most heartwarming performances are multigenerational. Seeing the whole family participate always brings a smile to her face.
“But I love them all equally,” she said.
Others chose not to dance for their submission. With a guitar and an upright bass, Will Collins of Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) and Bill McCrone sang the Brazilian Bossa Nova song Girl from Ipanema.
ACWB has been given a municipal grant to help fund Alberta Culture Days. Performers were paid for their contributions.
“We’re hoping that the community just takes away this idea that there’s this incredible diversity we can share and all learn from,” said Greenwood.
According to the most recent Statistics Canada data from 2017, the Wood Buffalo region had approximately 15,875 immigrants and 19,075 people identifying themselves as visible minorities.
People identifying as South Asian were the largest group of immigrants and visible minorities, numbering 4,985 people. Filipinos followed with a population of 4,905.
The largest visible minority group, however, are Indigenous. The data counted 5,295 First Nation residents and 2,615 Métis people calling the Wood Buffalo area home.
After English, the most commonly spoken language is Tagalog, with 3,505 speakers. French follows with 1,810 speakers.
Another 11,870 immigrants said they knew English and at least one other language, while 2,345 immigrants said English was the only language they knew.
-with files from Vincent McDermott