The first two weeks of August are always an overwhelming and enjoyable experience for many people in Winnipeg as they take a trip around the world without leaving home. It’s almost that time of year again when Folklorama takes centre stage.
To prepare for this event, the largest and longest running multicultural festival in the world, I began to reflect on my own journey that I enjoyed at last year’s pavilions.
As a first-time patron of Folklorama, I enjoyed meeting new people, learning different words, tasting exquisite cuisine, looking at vibrant displays that each culture has to offer – from arts and crafts to closer-to-life images of its cities and famous sights – and most of all, the music that was featured during the festive shows, together with heavenly songs, death defying stunts (at some pavilions) and invigorating and lovely dances.
The best part was I could enjoy all of this without going to the airport, or driving across the border, passport in hand in order to gain access to a foreign country. These two weeks gave me the edge when it comes to discovering the beauty and colour of each continent, east to west, north to south, right to left.
Day 1: Slovenian and Hungarian Pavilions – August 6, 2013
This was the very first pavilion I visited on my Folklorama trip. I was welcomed warmly by key people at the pavilion, the coordinators and ambassadors – particularly the youth ambassadors.
I was awed with their cultural display, showing their classical infrastructure such as bell towers and churches. Then, two key personnel at the pavilion, Matt and Mary Sobocan, showed me to a seat.
The coordinator served me a sampling of meals, such as barbeque chicken and Kielbasa, with Jupi soda as my drink.
While I was there, I had a chat with a couple of Folklorama Ambassadors from Chile, Judy and Francisco Valenzuela, who were seated beside me.
The shows started with opening words from Stan Lekowski who welcomed guests and provided a sneak peak throughout the show on what Slovenia has to offer.
The entertainers performed songs and dances, starting with a type of polka from the region of Gorenjska. They then proceeded through the region of Prekmurje– also called “the chicken head” (which included a song number), Notranjska (“The Cave Region”), up to the eastern region of Bela Krajinka. Lekowski, during the show, also promoted drinks and liquors available at their bar. Afterwards, i bought home a pack of cookies and other pastries from their food booth before proceeding to the next pavilion.
After Slovenia, it only took me a few paces to walk from Daniel MacIntyre High School to reach my next destination, the Hungary-Pannoia Pavilion at the Burton Cummings Community Centre.
There, I was welcomed by the Pavilion coordinators and some ambassadors, and one of them guided me to a seat in their reserved section, where I was served some of their delectable cuisine like their sausage, Töltött paprika, gulyas, and Langos (a type of bread).
Their cultural show presented some of the best things that Hungary has to offer through their dances performed with fervent grace and ease by the Kapiztran Folk Ensemble. Dances included the “Csardas”, Karikázó, a bottle dance called “Uveges”, a children’s dance based on a tale of a witch and her three sons, and a mind-blowing dance from Szatmar, which was a mix of the ”Csardas” and “Ugros”, where the male dancers in particular showed extreme prowess in their footwork.
The crowd asked for an encore, which was given without any delay, much to the high elation of the spectators – including myself.
I then proceeded to their cultural displays, celebrating the best of Hungary, from local objects to the country’s physical beauty, such as the Necropolis in Pecs and the old village of Holloko, both UN Heritage Sites. There was also Himes Tojas Eggs, a diorama of Hungary’s physical appearance, personified through its map; there was even a salute to its dog breeds like Komondor, Puli, Kuvasz, and Vizsla.
DAY 2: Germany and Ethiopian Pavilions – August 7, 2013
I went to their first show at 6:45 pm. The crowd started to clump like sardines in a can. In the background was an outdoor show in a tent where singing and dancing filled the air similar to a beer social. The crowd spilled further even onto the staircase, eagerly awaiting the opening. Upon entering, I saw a unique array of souvenirs, from traditional dresses to shirts and keychains.
For my meal, I bought some sauerkraut and Bratwurst, mixed with mashed potatoes and gravy.
The show’s theme was the “Karneval” or “Fasching”. To spice up things before the performance, the live in-house band played some music. As the show began, we were greeted by Kendra, the emcee who gave us a brief lesson in German, its fashion through their outfits, as well as the history of Karneval which dates back to the 16th century when a day was reserved for blue collar folk to mock the monarchy, military, and the government through dance and song.
The Karneval performers treated the crowd to a variety of songs and dances. Then, the Heischuken dancers performed an artistic rendition of the Karneval with a modern twist.
In the middle of the show, a man named Keith sang some songs about Oktoberfest and led us to participate in chants that are done during the festival like the “Ziggy Zaggy” chant, toasts, as well as some terminology.
After a few dances, a captivating and livening yodel was presented by some singers and by the king and queen. This was followed by some mixed modern and traditional dances, like Heidi. The show concluded with a participatory dance involving the audience.
A few minutes walk took me to my next pavilion, the Ethiopian Pavilion. The sounds of the music quickly tantalized my ears and then enticed me immediately to recline in my seat.
Minutes before the show, I bought some delectable cuisine, such as Beef Sambusas and Sambrosa selit -a type of dessert.
We were then welcomed by Kia, the Master of Ceremonies, or “Captain”, introducing us to what Ethiopia is about geographically and culturally, and an “appetizer dance” was first served.
The first dance of the night was from the northern part of Ethiopia, played as a courtship song accompanied by a drum. Other dances included a mash-up of a courtship song from the region called Afar and a fight dance from the Rer Ber region,a Southern Ethiopian dance laced with Central African culture about a man’s dream of falling in love with a girl, and a dance called “Eskista”, that deals with courtship.
DAY 3: Spanish and Portuguese Pavilions – August 8, 2013
Pabellon de Espana ( Spanish Pavilion)
Upon arriving, I was cordially welcomed by coordinator, Rosa Martin, who seated me in one of the reserved areas and offered me anything for my meal later.
I was interested in finding out more about the history of Spain and the uniqueness of the community that’s grown in Winnipeg. So, I was introduced to three pavilion ambassadors – adult ambassadors David Mendez and Felicia Garcia as well as youth ambassador, Serena Garcia.
I asked them about the pavilion and the organization’s history. They replied their pavilion has been there since Folklorama’s inception 44 years ago, and the community was established in the 1970’s by only a few people which later grew as the years went by. The challenges they have faced since immigrating include the problems with speaking English, finding good work, and raising their families with only a small Spanish community around them here in Winnipeg, compared to other areas in Canada.
Mendez was a youth ambassador in 2000, and only this year became an adult ambassador, while the Garcia sisters started this year.
The show began with the “Viva Espana” song danced by the Spanish Club Folk Dancers. It continued with a welcoming remark by the emcee who also introduced different pavilion ambassadors and personnel from various pavilions and the Folklorama office itself. Dances soon followed like the “El Pasador de Matador”, farmer dances from Malaga, a dance called ”Punera” from the region of Felicia which is heavily influenced by Celtic sounds, as well as various other castanet-cracking, and graciously delivered folk dances. The finale painted the house red with the “rumba”, choreographed by the dancers themselves.
I also enjoyed the delectable cuisine offered at this pavilion, such as the Paella and their pastel dessert. I deeply appreciated the warmth of their hospitality through their accommodative services and most of all, the live energy that the spectators brought to the show, which filled the place warmly.
Pavilion of Portugal
I next went to the pavilion of Portugal on Notre Dame Avenue where it was so jam-packed I nearly couldn’t get into the venue. Once inside, bought an orange soda called,”Sumol”. Then, I proceeded to recline at one of the tables offered to me by one of the pavilion volunteers. I was seated near some of Folklorama’s Ambassadors and Pavilion Ambassadors, such as Thyaharajan Visweswaran, Folklorama’s 2013 Youth Ambassador General, from the Tamil Pavilion.
The show began with dances by children, followed by performances by senior dancers. Songs were also performed by Stephanie Tavares, who sang the cover of Mariza’s “Chuva”, and a folk song called “Protegen”. I was served a sumptuous small meal consisting of olives, linguica, and fish fillet; plus a dessert called pasteis, which was super scrumptious.
The show concluded with a grand dance from the Senior dancers.
During my trek through their cultural centre, I marvelled at the beauty Portugal has to offer, from her rich aquatic resources to impressive handicrafts and wines.
I interviewed two of the pavilion ambassadors, Youth Ambassador, Monica Cabral, and Adult Ambassador, Paulo Do Couto.
Monica has been involved in this pavilion for seven years, and began as a dancer. She enjoys being involved because she loves socializing and loves her culture.
Paulo also began as a dancer, a ”Minor do Juventude”, and this was his first time being an ambassador. He says it is a rewarding and exciting experience, approaching people to tell them about the beauty of Portugal’s culture.
According to Agostinho Bairos of the Portuguese Pavilion, their community began here in Winnipeg in 1957 after the first group of Portuguese came here to work in the railroad and textile industries. Through their strong kinship with their fellow countrymen, the Portuguese Association of Manitoba was founded in 1966, and six years later, in 1972, their pavilion was established.
Bairos added that Folklorama unites people from around the world under the one roof of our great city. “The world would not be the same without it,” he said.
DAY 4: Pearl of the Orient and South Sudan Pavilions – August 4, 2013
Pearl of the Orient Pavilion-Philippine
It was a rainy day when I arrived at RB Russell High School – the location of Pearl of the Orient-Philippine Pavilion. The theme for this year’s show was Christmas in the Philippines.
It began with a festival dance called “Ati-Atihan”. Then, a skit on a typical Christmas eve night here in Canada with the Natividad family, and the grandparents, when grandmother told a story about her Christmas back home.
Some of the dances featured were the “Tinikling”,” Pandango sa Ilaw”, among others. During the dance, a tree in the stage’s background fell but fortunately, nobody was hurt.
In the cultural display, I marveled at the life-sized “Sunka” playing set, the giant Bahay Kubo (”Nipa Hut”), as well as the gargatuan map of the Philippines, among all of the beautiful attractions shown there.
I met Maridol Madolora, who told me the pavilion began in 1982 at Furby Street, sponsored by the Magdaragat Philippines Incorporated which was founded in 1976 by the late Rey C. Buenaventura. RB Russell has been their pavilion’s home since 1987. Their motto at the Pearl of the Orient pavilion is to ”Enter as a guest, leave as a friend.”
South Sudan Pavilion
It was still raining when I reached this pavilion. The line was long and squeezy but nonetheless, worth the effort as I witnessed some colourful dances and lively atmosphere which filled the place with excitement.
The first dance began with the Zambe agriculture group, then followed by a group of Dinka people (the biggest and tallest tribe in South Sudan), Madi group, Dinka-Rek, Acholi, and last but certainly not least, was the Dinka Aweil – a girls only group.
South Sudan is a country which gained independence only in 2011, making it the youngest country in the world today.
In Winnipeg, South Sudanese immigration started about 20 years ago. The refugees have faced challenges like the difficulty in learning the language, and coming from refugee camps they had to start from scratch, according to their coordinator, Daniel Swaka. The pavilion was also named the Sudan Pavilion before its independence.
During my stay there, i enjoyed also the Bimya moya snack that I bought, aside from the lively music and graceful dances that they did. The spectators also enjoyed the show; one named Robert said, “It’s energetic and the show serves an an intro to the young country’s culture.”
Day 5: August 11,2013 – Ukraine-Kyiv and Japanese Pavilions, North End
On my visit to the Ukrainian pavilion, I fawned over the tapestries that they have to offer, such as their wool rugs (called “Kylym”) hanging around their kiosks, ethnic clothing, religious orthodox images, and other arts and crafts.
I learned through Lascha Schuvaluk of the Ukranian Canadian Congress-Manitoba Council that Ukrainian immigration to Winnipeg began more than 120 years ago, when settlers first came to rural Manitoba, homesteading on a few acres of farmland for $10. They struggled with language and the hardships associated with farming in a time of little aid from government. Despite these challenges, Ukrainians continued to immigrate to farms and cities, most recently after the 1991 independence.
Next, I went to the Japanese Pavilion located at 355 Andrews Street.
On site, I enjoyed the loud roaring of the drummers as they played various beats, accompanied by their energetic screams. The spectacle also featured some great artistry, such as the Winnipeg Budokai Karate club, a rock band performance, and dances.
Day 6: August 12, 2013 – Indo-China and Tamil Pavilions, Downtown
Att the Indo-China pavilion on Cumberland, I enjoyed, aside from the show itself, the delectable cuisines that they had to offer, such as noodles, sweet and sour pork, and egg pie.
The colourful cultural celebrations began with a lively lion dance, which was followed by a dance from Laos called Tang Vai, a flute number by James Ye Zi entitled “A Trip in Suzhou”, and other dances such as a New Year’s dance and an umbrella dance. The show concluded with a Tai Chi and Wu-Shu presentation by the Shao Lei Tai Chi Wushu Institute.
After that, I quickly went onto the next attraction – the Tamil Pavilion at the Burton Cummings Community Centre (also the site of the Hungary-Pannoia pavilion a week before).
The show highlighted the beauty of the Tamil culture through splendid dances which depict day-to-day life. One called “The Kal’Bari”, was about the lord of the dance; another called “Ari Khandra” depicts the captivating divine dance of Lord Nadaraj, and “Kolattam”, which is a lively multi-person dance involving sticks and served as the final dance before the next show began.
At one point during the program, they demonstrated the proper way to wear a sari by bringing a volunteer named Tusha on stage who was robed tightly in the garment. Afterwards, to Tusha’s delight, they gave her the sari that was demonstrated on her.
Once the show was over, I stared upon their exhibit gallery, which showed the richness of the Tamil culture. Some of which included the writing system, history, and musical instruments like the “Veena”, a type of stringed instrument. Did you know that the one of the oldest books in the world was written in Tamil? That book is called The “Tirukkural” which is written by Tiruvalluvar a century before Jesus Christ was born. It contained provervbs in Tamil on how one must live accordingly in 1,330 couplets.