Authentic Italian pizza and a fire-eating limbo dancer from Jamaica would seem to be an odd combination for a weekend in Winnipeg, but not during Folklorama.
The two-week festival began on the weekend with enthusiastic performances and appreciative audiences at the annual celebration of culture.
Every culture has its own unique features, but two of the 23 pavilions offered in the first week also showed how certain aspects can cross cultural barriers. High-energy dance was a central feature in both the Italian and Africa/Caribbean Pavilions, with both young and old participating in the fun.
A returning feature of the Africa/Caribbean Pavilion was a performance by a fire-eating limbo dancer, who amazed the audience with his ability to wiggle his way backwards under flaming rods to the accompaniment of energetic music.
Music is a central part of many pavilions, and these two were no exception, with both including a variety of styles and different performers.
The Italian pavilion, for example, featured mainly folk music with the exception of a soloist representing the operatic style of La Scala, while the Africa/Caribbean pavilion emphasized drums and high-energy tunes while also including a choir that sang a more plaintive spiritual-style song.
Food was a popular feature at both of the pavilions, as it often is. Pizza and gelati were two of the foods on offer at the Italian Pavilion, while jerk chicken and roti were only two of the dishes available at the Africa/Caribbean event.
Encapsulating an entire culture in a half-hour performance is difficult, especially when several countries are part of the story, as with the Africa/Caribbean Pavilion. However, they did their best, and the results were good.
At the Africa/Caribbean Pavilion, some of the featured regions included Nigeria, Jamaica, and Ghana, with special dances and music blending together to give an impression of an extremely diverse yet connected community.
The Italian pavilion, although featuring a much smaller geographical area, managed to convey the subtle differences in various aspects of the country’s culture.
For many of the performers, the cultures they portrayed might have been almost as foreign as they were to the audience members. However, even the youngest performers seemed to enjoy the chance to help convey their heritage to outsiders.
From the appearance of some of the performers, it seems that the communities are already doing a good job of drawing outsiders into their groups. If the rest of Folklorama brings greater understanding of other cultures and participation in them, if only on a very limited basis, it will fulfill its purpose.
Folklorama’s Italian Pavilion is located at Centro Caboto Centre 1055 Wilkes Ave.
Folklorama’s Africa/Caribbean Pavilion is located at Grant Park High School 450 Nathaniel St.