Multiculturalism Day brings diversity and joy back to Maple Ridge

belly dancers
Belly dancers from Shimmy for the Soul performed at the event/Ayesha Ghaffar

On a hot summer day, residents of Maple Ridge came out to support the diversity of their community to commemorate National Multiculturalism Day

The stage set in front of the ACT Arts Centre is a reminder of the diversity that makes Canada a melting pot of global cultures and traditions. 

Everyone in attendance was welcomed by beautiful Katzie First Nation songs and what made it extra special was the presence of four generations of Elder Colleen Pierre’s family.

Katzie First Nation welcome song
Four generations of Katzie First Nation shared a welcome song at the event/Ayesha Ghaffar

After the warm welcome, the day kept taking a turn for the better as a Filipino-Canadian, Christina Lopez-Olson, 20, took centre stage for the national anthem. 

“My daughter and myself, we’re both dressed in a Muslim princess dress from the Philippines since there’s a big Muslim population there,” said Veechee Lopez-Olson, mother and co-director of Ridge Meadows Multicultural Society. 

Read: National Multiculturalism Day returns to in-person celebrations in Maple Ridge

national anthem being performed
Representing the Philippines, the mother-daughter duo wore Muslim princess dresses/Ayesha Ghaffar

They immigrated to Canada 29 years ago and have been residents of Maple Ridge for three years now but this year’s excitement is unmatched as the event returned to an in-person celebration after two years. 

“It feels great and I feel proud to represent my culture. It’s also great to mingle with people in person, be able to touch them and give them hugs,” Olson shared. 

And she isn’t the only one who felt this way.

The director of Roots Peruvian Dance group expressed that even though they were performing virtually, being around people makes the experience more interactive.

“We need to see people, to invite them for participation so they can also feel like a part of our culture,” said Jessica Roca Muncaster. 

They performed dances influenced by African culture (including Huayno and La Marinera and Anaconda dance) from four different regions, in their traditional dresses, leaving the attendees mesmerized with their handmade dresses from Cuzco, Peru. 

Their dances were from the coast, east, west and north of Peru; representing the diversity of dance forms and dresses in the country.

Peruvian dance performance
The director of the Peruvian dance group performs a sensual dance form with African influence/Ayesha Ghaffar

Traditional dresses were the highlight of the event whether those worn by the Southeast Asian Heritage Cultural Society dance group or the Bulgarian-Canadian Society of BC dance group, where people saw two different generations come together. 

A youth folk dance group, Zornitsa and an adult folk dance group, Kitka took the stage and left everyone in awe of their beautiful attire and contagious smiles. 

young Bulgarian dancers
Young Bulgarian-Canadians dance group, Zornitsa performed a regional song/Ayesha Ghaffar

When invited to participate, a large group of people jumped at the chance to enjoy and learn. 

Each member has been dancing for years but became part of this group at different points in their lives. 

“I joined in three years ago and it took us one year to choreograph this performance. Each area of Bulgaria has a different dance and traditional dress and ours are from the southwest region,” said Sacha Kayriamova choreographer of the adult dance group. 

In Bulgarian culture, it’s believed that in a ring dance when people hold hands, it exudes a healing and positive energy, said Daniela Al-Kuwatli, vice president of the group. 

Canadian-Bulgarian women perform the folk ring dance from southwest Bulgaria/Ayesha Ghaffar

The event included performances from a South Indian dance group, and a Venezuelan music group and performances concluded with a refreshing belly dance performance. 

Watching these different dance groups share their cultures was a reminder of the richness and diversity within their respective communities, something often overlooked.

There were booths set all around for activities for children, henna, face painting, reading and food. 

holi being played at event
The multicultural event concluded in colour with Holi/Ayesha Ghaffar

The event concluded with Holi, a Hindu festival of colour that celebrates the triumph of love and welcomes spring/Ayesha Ghaffar

The event concluded with the colourful Hindu festival of Holi, a reminder of the richness diverse cultures and traditions bring to communities.

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