When the history of Mexico, French jig music, and chocolate come together into one festival, they can create something special.
From Sep. 25 to 27, Winnipeggers and visitors from outside the city had a chance to sample new foods, work at embroidery and other crafts, or just enjoy the rich cultural heritage of Manitoba.
When people go to events like Culture Days in fall or Doors Open in spring, they might expect little more than to walk around, looking at displays or listening to concerts. This year’s Culture Days included many displays in the stores, as well as the chance to hear performances under the canopy at the Forks.
On Saturday afternoon, for example, the musical line-up at that venue included Ca Calque, a local group singing French Canadian and Irish songs while demonstrating the techniques of doing the jig.
However, many events included at least an element of participation, with children at the Ca Calque concert paddling their “canoes” (actually, long benches) as they imagined themselves as early explorers.
Activities at Chocolatier Constance Popp (CCP) on Provencher Blvd. allowed visitors to participate in making marshmallows and other delicacies while looking at or possibly buying a chocolate chess board, complete with edible pieces, and the many other pieces of artwork made from chocolate.
Participation was key to at least one of Saturday’s events at Culture Days. Bordamos Without Borders was an embroidery bee and historical display held at the Exchange Community Church on Albert Street.
Paired with information on the Mexican revolution and on the current flow of migrants to Canada and the United States, the event gave participants the chance to learn about the issues while using their stitching skills to create a series of cloth panels.
By the end of the afternoon, the wall along one side of the room had a series of panels, all with the same message: “Ten cuidado, no viajes solo, y ten valor” (“Be careful: don’t travel alone, and be brave”).
Not all events during the 2015 Culture Days carried social or political messages, but each one had its own potential for learning or for bringing people together to enjoy each others’ company.
Nuit Blanche gave night owls the chance to view the city after dark, while other events brought children, youth, and adults together to explore Winnipeg together.
A celebration like Culture Days can sometimes feel somewhat artificial as people spend a short time exploring the city’s heritage and communities before they go back to their own homes and everyday lives. However, if the weekend celebration helped alert even a few people to the wide range of cultural, social, and gastronomical possibilities in their city, it was worth the effort.