Monday, July 21, 2014

Multicultural Festival Promotes Harmony in Australia

Riders: An Arabic themed performance with camels attracts visitors. (Ahmad Syam)

Thousands of people flocked to Federation Square located at the heart of Melbourne on a recent Sunday. They scattered throughout every part of that historic public space.

Some sat comfortably under umbrellas while enjoying music from various cultures and genres. Others walked around stages watching traditional and modern dances.

Those who liked shopping went straight away to the ‘market of the world’ to find a variety of stalls selling high-quality and unique art and craft products made locally and overseas.

At another part of Federation Square, Yarra River Terrace, over 20 food stalls sold sweet and savory delights from many countries. The terrace was transformed into ‘food stalls from around the globe’.

On that day, Yarra River Terrace was teeming with Melbournians. Paths along the side of the river, which is about one meter wide, became congested. Although having to line up, people seemed to be patient in waiting for the food they wanted to order.

That particular Sunday, the Viva Victoria Multicultural Festival 2014 was held as the culmination of Harmony Day and Cultural Diversity Week.

The booklet distributed by the festival commitee, The Victorian Multicultural Commission, describes Australia as a country inhabited by people from 200 different countries, with more than 130 religions or beliefs, and with 260 languages and dialects.

Joe Crawshaw, a staff member of a local community group, said that the festival was important for the Australian community. “It is not only a chance to celebrate the many different backgrounds that people come from, but also a chance to celebrate our similarities. This country was built on people arriving from overseas, and sometimes it is too easy to overlook the contributions that different cultures have made for Australia as a whole”.

The young man, whose parents are Australian-American, added that the multicultural event strengthened the Australian community as it allowed an open conversation between cultures.

Showtime: The festival presented fascinating customs and performances from around the world. (Ahmad Syam)

Once a cultural practice that may have once seemed foreign to you is celebrated, allowing you to understand the history and culture of that group of people, it becomes a chance for people to come together and proudly share their culture with the rest of the community, he says.

The same opinion came from Ronald Rushton, 78, who has been living in Australia for a long time. “It is good to see the Multicultural Festival because we can see many people from different nationalities,” said the pensioner who works as crossing supervisor.

Ron moved from England to Australia in 1956. He thinks that it is good to live in multicultural country. “If I did not live in multicultural country like Australia I would never know about Chinese or Vietnamese food.” He added that although there were many cultural backgrounds in Australia, people can live in harmony.

Walking around the the stalls offering various crafts and foods from many countries was not only enjoyable, but also let people experience the diversity of the globe. We could find a range of crafts, from Polish cups and mugs to Laotian lau silk, and from Mexican paleta artisan ice popsicles to Indonesian cuisine.

Four main stages in different locations offering traditional and modern dance enticed visitors. It was no wonder that visitors delightedly sat under the sun with their favorite food and drinks for hours.

At the Commonwealth Bank Main Stage, the Maracatu estrele do Mar-Afro Brazilian percussion group, playing rhythms from the north-east of Brazil, opened the event. Then, nine groups from different countries presented dance and musical attractions, before the event was closed by the spirit of old Bollywood and classical Indian traditions.

Byron and the Gypsy Cats, who presented a mix of traditional music from the Greek islands and Asia Minor, was one six groups at the Riverside Terrace Stage. While at the Deakin Edge Dance Stage, Asanti Dance from Ghana performed a dance is about power, precision, and energy.

Meanwhile, at Ubuntu Yourth Stage, there were 11 performing groups. One of them was Taeme, Wubshet and Soliana, an Ethiopian circus trio that made visitors’ heads spin.

The Viva Multicultural Festival also offers visitors a chance to see Bodhi Tree-Field of Enlightenment. This was made possible by the Buddha’s Light International Association of Victoria.

The association displayed the Bodhi leaf as a symbol of peace and reminder to share thoughts of peace. The festival was also a great family day out, as parents could bring their children for special activities such as making jewelry or making flags from recycled materials, face-painti, and listening to indigeneous story telling.

The Multicultural Festival in Australia was held as the culmination of Harmony Day, aimed at showing that the Australian community can unite into a cohesive and inclusive social system.

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