Ruth writes: I especially wanted to go to one of my favourites, the Nevruz Spring Festival at the Nile Academy. This festival is great because it has representatives from many different countries, all in one place. It was a chance to add to my collection of photos of the different cultures that we have in Toronto. I expected them all to be Turkic speaking.
I had challenged my Blog readers to identify the 17 flags in the Nevruz poster. (See Blog 450 below.) This was mainly because I couldn’t identify them myself. I decided to concentrate on the flags at this fair. The set-up at the different tables was ideal. Each of the cultures or countries had a flag on the wall behind its collection of symbols, arts and crafts. Some had sample food, either free or for sale.
The first country table visited was Mongolia. A student and a representative of the Canada-Mongolia Chamber of Commerce were there. I remembered Mongolia as a Buddhist country. What was it doing at a primarily Muslim festival? Uighurs live in the far west of Mongolia, they said. Uighurs are Muslim and Turkic speaking. I should have remembered them and the Kazaks. The Mongolians were showing a Mongolian flag, not a Uighur or Kazak flag. And Genghis Khan was there.
The Ajerbaijanis were next. Blue, red and green with a crescent moon and star. The women at the booth were charming. One of them remembered me from the year before. A little boy in a tall black hat was being tempted to take a cookie off a plate. He looked to be five and was very cute, waiting impatiently for his mother’s attention as she talked with the women at the booth. He could not resist grabbing a cookie. A plate of coloured eggs, apricots, dates, and symbolic grass was on the table too. I had seen a similar display with grass at an Iranian Newruz festival the week before. The Iranians were not at this festival.
The Albanian flag had a two-headed black bird on a red field. And for my picture, Klenida Qosja wanted to wear a beautiful white traditional dress while Blerta Gjolaj and daughter Nimet Nora kept her company.
The Afghan flag was black, red and green with what looked like a gold mosque in the middle. The Amin sisters were so charming, I forgot to ask about the flag.
Alie, a Crimean Tatar was wearing her flag as a cape. With cookies to sell to raise money for the Nile Academy, her exhibit made me feel hungry. And with the program on the stage starting, it was too noisy to ask her about the Russian invasion of her homeland or anything else.
The Filipinos were there because they were invited, said Ben Ferrer, Silayan Community Centre. I thought it was a nice multicultural gesture too. They have a festival similar to Nevruz, he said, but on a different date. Its flag was not on the Nevruz poster. The style of his Barong Tagalog looked new to me.
The Uzbek flag was blue, white and green with thin red stripes, 12 stars and a crescent moon. I was too intrigued by the beautiful embroidered prayer rug to ask Firuza about the significance of the 12 stars. By this time, the hall was getting very crowded and the vendors very busy selling.
The Uzbek table was next to one of several Turkish tables.
Songul Ozkan and Nuranan Tamirci were cooking flat pancakes on a grill. I couldn’t resist the smell and bought a plate. It was full of cheese and spices, and so good. The chairs were all occupied so I stood in a hallway to eat. Then I concentrated on the performances.
The little Ajerbaijani boy with the black hat and cookie was dancing on stage in a group. The steps were intricate. He was as good as the older dancers. The dance was wonderful to watch.
Then came four lively Albanian dancers in spiffy traditional costumes. It was obvious they had danced together frequently before, they were so fast and polished. It was the first Albanian dance group I’ve seen in Toronto.
A cultural group was the Iraq Turkmen. I learned later that Turkmen are the third largest ethnic group in Iraq. Their flag is different from that of Iraq.
Twenty cultural groups were on the list. I was able to photograph an Afghani man in a green robe similar to that seen in newsreels on former Afghan president Karzai. A Kazakh man was wearing a gorgeous blue robe and tall pointed hat. I have taken a lot of photos of the Tatars so I spent my time looking for other groups, but I couldn’t find any Cerkes Turks or Somalis, both of whom were on the Nevruz list.
Taking pictures is a great introduction to people. Those at this festival were happy to cooperate and all gave permission for their pictures to be published in a blog. It is indeed a very superficial relationship but it’s a beginning. I would love to have had more time to sit down quietly and leisurely with any of them for a talk, tea, coffee and cookies – but maybe there’ll be some other opportunities.
And I think I can identify some of those flags now. Maybe you can start your own collection of multicultural Toronto pictures and heritage flags. It’s a great ice-breaker.
Please let us know of your adventures in multicultural Toronto. Write us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.