137. Carassauga 2011, a Report

Indonesian Puppet and Friend. Image©Ruth Lor Malloy 2011

As a place to take pictures of as many countries as possible, it was great. An A+. In six hours, I was able to collect 11 countries, plus several more grouped as Hispanic and African. Where else can you easily find representatives of Cyprus and Iraq in Toronto? Where else would you find an artist making sand paintings in bottles the way artists make sand paintings in Egypt?

As an event to experience cultures, I give it a B. The problem is definition. Would you consider what you see in tourist markets and movies in Cairo and Mumbai traditional cultures? Is Bollywood traditional? Would you consider belly dancers with blond hair Middle Eastern? Belly dancers have become so common in Toronto, they are almost Canadian.

Anatolian Dancers. Image©Ruth Lor Malloy 2011

Would you consider it an African dance if the young women involved happened to be of African origin? What if one wore a tee-shirt that said “Our Boy Friend is Hot.” So maybe this is what a modern young African would wear in Africa today. But is it African culture? Who chooses the performers? The grade is a compromise.

I sat beside a lovely Turkish woman whose son was one of the excellent Anatolian dancers. We groaned together as yet another belly dancer appeared on stage. Belly dancing is only one tiny part of Middle Eastern dance. The men in the audience clearly disagreed with us.

On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed a group of women drumming in the African way even though three were white and two were black. I think it’s great that we appreciate each others’ cultures to the extent of learning them. Maybe I just have a problem with belly dancing. The B is because I can’t decide. I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

Iraqi Bottles. Image©Ruth Lor Malloy 2011

Meeting the Turkish woman was one of my Carassaga highlights. So was chatting with an Indonesian woman who told me about the gado-gado she was eating. There were lots of opportunities to talk with people of other cultures, especially while sharing tables. Merchants answered questions and were generally friendly. Only one, dressed in ancient Egyptian costume and working incongruously on a computer, refused to let me take his picture.

Egyptian Sand Painting. Image©Ruth Lor Malloy 2011

I can’t vouch for the quality of all the food there but the bland peanut sauce of the satay at an Indonesian stall was a disappointment. I give it an F. I tried the big simic, which is like a Turkish bagel. It was slightly sweeter than a bagel and covered with sesame seeds. I would recommend one if you’re hungry.

There was a lot of interesting ethnic foods and drinks to sample like soursop and lukuma drinks and Inca Kola from Peru. Though the Colombians offered a whole barbecued pig, the Peruvians fortunately didn’t offer their national dish which is guinea pig.

Face Painting. Image©Ruth Lor Malloy 2011

I did enjoy Carassauga. A Pakistani stall was selling cheap copies of William and Kate’s “wedding ring.” A gaggle of children were beating a drum and dancing along with the African women’s band. Some of the face-painting was very imaginative. Perfume bottles were lined up the way they are in many stores in Cairo. Cheerful volunteers collected donations for Heart and Stroke in the Canadian pavilion amid the poutine and beaver tails.

Best of all, the crowd was very multicultural. People were enjoying each other’s cultures.


  1. Looks like you had a super fun day, Ruth, too much belly-dancing notwithstanding! Wish I had been with you!

    You raise an interesting question about what is culture, and perhaps more specifically about cultural purity. I have a blond-haired niece who is passionately involved in African dance and drumming (you can see her dancing in the top and third photo here.) and while I don’t mean to speak for her, I would surmise she feels she does actively promote the continuation and appreciation of traditional African dance and music. In the same way, yes, the young African would wear a modern sassy t-shirt, and that reflects their culture of today, one that is perhaps fraying at the edges as the world moves towards being a globalized melting pot.

    Is it good? Is it bad? I’d say it just is.

    As you know, culture – language, song and dance, attitude, life style etc – is a living organic “thing” that can never be frozen at a particular time and place. Look how much we’ve seen modern culture in China change over the past three decades. Is Chinese culture only pre-1949? I’d say not.

    So my question is, was the AIM of the event to show “traditional culture” or share today’s cultures from around the world as lived by immigrants (past and present) in Toronto, Canada? The answer to that (plus being there, of course) would help me better know how to rate the event.

    Ultimately, if the people of Toronto, friends and families, joined together to have a blast of a day, a joyful mix of all communities, then I’d say the event gets an A+.

    Just my quick thoughts.

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