A travelling festival that hopes to combat racism with art is coming to Nanaimo.
On March 14, 15 and 21 the Harbour City hosts the fifth annual Anti-Racism Arts Festival.
The festival was founded by the Calgary-based nonprofit Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation. The inaugural event was held in Calgary in 2016 and it has since been organized in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver. It was originally a film festival but has since expanded to include other art forms.
“It’s really a way for dialogue around anti-racism and anti-oppression to come forward in a way that people are more comfortable with sometimes and that’s expression through the arts,” said Jennifer Fowler, executive director of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society.
Fowler was involved in the 2017 edition of Anti-Racism Arts Festival in Edmonton. At the time she worked for the City of Edmonton, which was one of the event’s sponsors. She said the festival was “pretty amazing to see” and she invited the foundation to hold the 2020 festival in Nanaimo.
The centrepiece of the festival is the 48-hour film challenge, in which teams are given two days to create a film based on a quote or a prop they are provided. Those interested in participating in the 2020 edition of the film challenge have until March 9 at midnight to register. On March 13 the groups will each receive their quote or prop.
Other events taking place during the festival are “Food and Learn” workshops at FoodShare Community Kitchen on March 14, in which attendees will learn to cook dishes from the Philippines and China while learning Tagalog and Mandarin.
“People do come together around food and I think experiencing a culture through food is, again, a comfortable environment for people,” Fowler said.
Also on March 14 is an anti-oppression and anti-racism-themed spoken word open mike night at The Bee’s Knees Café and on March 15 Snuneymuxw elder Gary Manson will lead a blanket exercise at the multicultural society.
On March 21 a red carpet gathering takes place at the Nanaimo Museum, as Fowler wanted to incorporate into the festival the museum’s current Refuge Canada exhibition, which examines Canada’s history in relation to refugees. The event will be followed by the film screening and award presentations in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre’s Shaw Auditorium.
Fowler said the film challenge is open to people of all skill and experience levels and it’s interesting to see what participants come up with.
“You can be an amateur person with your iPhone. If you have an idea and you have a way of expressing it, that’s the important piece,” she said. “And if you want to participate in this kind of dialogue around diversity and inclusion, then it’s a great space for it.”
WHAT’S ON … Anti-Racism Arts Festival takes place at multiple downtown venues on March 14, 15 and 21. For more information and to register for events and the 48-hour film challenge, visit www.canadianculturalmosaicfoundation.com.