Tapestrama puts global culture under one roof

Matt Gardner
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If variety is the spice of life, the Prince Albert Multicultural Council is ready to add some extra kick to your dish.

Tapestrama location map

Tapestrama, an annual event organized by the council, offers local residents a sample of different cultures from around the world through food, drink, dance, films and musical performances. This year’s cultural fair is scheduled to take place at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Numerous changes differentiate Tapestrama 2012 from previous years, not least of which is the change in venue.

“For the last several years we’ve been hosting the Tapestrama down at the Exhibition Centre,” host and Multicultural Council board member Conrad Burns said. “This year we’re transferring over to the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. We’re going to have the booth and shows separate this year so that people can just focus directly on the shows.”

This year’s festival also features a new director, following the passing of longtime organizer Marge Nainaar after many years of service to the Multicultural Council. Tapestrama 2012 will feature a special tribute to Nainaar.

“It was an honour to host last year’s Tapestrama, where she shortly passed away after that,” Burns said. “So with the new director stepping in in the guidance of Marge, we decided to take it in a new direction. This year it’s being hosted from 11

(a.m.) until about 6:30 at night, Saturday (and) Sunday, rather than in the evening. There’s also going to be … alcohol served from different beverages from around the world, which is actually rather interesting.”

Another change is the dropping of general admission fees, made possible by the support of sponsors such as SaskTel and the Northern Lights Casino. Instead, guests can make personal donations, and many booths will be charging special admission fees to help cover costs.

Scheduled performers hail from some far-flung locales: Filipino, Irish and Ukrainian cultural dancers, Japanese karate demonstrators, Celtic fiddlers, Burmese musicians and a Liberian family singing group will all appear onstage.

First Nations culture forms a significant component of Tapestrama attractions. Although such traditional activities might not seem as “foreign” to Prince Albert given the city’s large Aboriginal population, Burns — who is of First Nations ancestry — is forthright on the meaning of their presence.

Everyone has their own unique perspective that could truly highlight or nourish our culture. Conrad Burns

“Prince Albert is multicultural and is part First Nation,” he said. “But a lot of the knowledge about the music and why we sing the songs and we dance the dances aren’t known. So when we get performers up there, especially in a stage like this where all … Prince Albert get(s) to see the talented individuals, they get to understand a little more of the culture and tradition behind the performances and the dancing, so that it’s not just a show, it’s part of their life.”

Foreign films play throughout the weekend, and children’s activities such as face painting will be available. The weekend concludes with a musical extravaganza, “The World Within Prince Albert,” which begins on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

While multiculturalism is a fairly innocuous topic in Canada, the idea has come under increased attack in recent years. Since the onset of global recession, European leaders such as David Cameron in Britain, Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Angela Merkel in Germany have all publicly declared multiculturalism to be a “failure.”

Burns considers such viewpoints misguided.

“I think those political leaders misunderstand the value of multiculturalism,” he said. “Every culture, every person in the world has very unique inputs into things. If it weren’t for the Japanese, America’s automotive companies would be years and years behind. Their way of dealing with the automotive process, where they can have an idea and put it onto the road in six months, (while) it would take the Americans three to four years to do the same thing … they streamlined the whole thing.

“Europeans introducing democracy, Aboriginals, everyone has their own unique perspective that could truly highlight or nourish our culture. To say it doesn’t work or to put it aside is actually forgetting that there’s more to the world than just one view.”

Organizations: E.A. Rawlinson Centre, Multicultural Council, Prince Albert Exhibition Centre First Nations SaskTel Northern Lights Casino

Geographic location: Canada, Britain, France Germany America

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