The University of Alberta hosted Worldfest last weekend, a free all-ages event encouraging appreciation for the diverse global cultures present in Alberta.
Running Sept. 28-30, the weekend was a part of Alberta Culture Days, a three-day event inviting Albertans across the province to take in cultural performances by local artists. Worldfest was organized and run by residents and staff of International House (I-House), a residence facility emphasizing global awareness and cultural interaction.
“We wanted to really acknowledge (that) the world is here in Alberta, so our tagline was ‘Celebrating our World in Alberta,’” said Leslie Weigl, Global Education Program Coordinator at International House.
Saturday’s events kicked off with a pancake breakfast and cultural activities at group-specific booths. The booth representing India offered henna, and there was jewelery-making and piñata-painting at the Latin American booth.
Attendees were also treated to dance performances in a variety of different styles from Edmonton Fusion Dance Foundation, who also offered lessons to interested participants.
“Fusion dancing is, of course, so I-House-y because we’re all about what happens when you blend things or you bring different styles together and come up with something new,” Weigl said.
The afternoon’s events included a hip hop and ‘spoken word’ workshop, giving participants the opportunity to make their own poetry and perform at the World Music Café hosted later that evening.
“It’s always not formal in the sense that there’s no barrier ... we’re all in it together, so it’s a non-threatening environment for people to perform in and (it’s) really supportive,” Weigl said.
Sunday’s events, which focused on Asian cultures, featured booths devoted to helping visitors make origami, paper lanterns and traditional masks. A Lion Dance was also performed by members of the Hong De Cultural Association, and traditional mooncakes and tea were served as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival currently being celebrated by Asian communities worldwide.
According to Weigl, events were selected for their educational value and their capacity to foster interaction and understanding between people.
“The activities were a way into conversations, to spending time (and) just sitting next to somebody who grew up in a totally different way,“ Weigl said.
“It’s all a way into getting closer to understanding other people and other people’s ways.”
Weigl also emphasized that one of their main goals was to engage with the community surrounding the U of A to give them an idea of what International House is all about.
“We wanted to do outreach to folks who live near us because at I-House we talk about each other as being neighbours and family, and it’s nice to reach out to actual neighbours and family in the community,” she said.
This is the inaugural year for Worldfest, which was hosted at the Telus Centre on campus. Weigl said she’s interested in hosting Worldfest again next year, and believes the event offers people a unique way to learn about and engage with culture by emphasizing interaction with others.
“A lot of times when we talk about cultural events, it kind of stops there because they’re on a stage, or in a book or on a wall or something, but it’s the people — that is the culture, because culture is living.”
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