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Migrant communities add colour and choreography to Nelson Arts Festival

Saris, masks, and music from Nelson's migrant community are on display as part of this year's Arts Festival.

Co-organiser of the "Cultural Conversations" event Tanya Nock said a tent had been set up in Nelson's 1903 square where the public could come and meet people from the Sri Lankan, Bhutanese and Colombian communities.

The groups would have art and performance specific to their culture and would also be available to answer questions.

"It's way for the public to visit a space and interact in an informal situation," she said.

"It's that human connection, you know, we can see things online a lot now but the whole idea is that actually talking to people is really important, and making friends."

Each cultural group spends three days at the tent, with the Sri Lankan community having wrapped up their stint on Monday evening.

There had been around 100 people visit the Sri Lankan tent in the first couple of days and already there had been plenty of positive feedback.

"One lovely thing happened yesterday," Nock said.

"A woman bought a sari in an op shop but she didn't know what to do with it. She brought it to the tent and a couple of the women showed her how to put it on."

It was a chance for people to learn more about the cultures, but also to get to know those people within the migrant community who they otherwise may not meet.

"The last three days we've had sari dressing and mask painting basically, to tie in with the mask parade to look at how different the masks are," Nock said.

"The next few days is going to be the Bhutanese community and they've got some games, dice games they're going to play, and different sari dressing and looking at costumes, and they'll also be doing some dancing and music."

Padma Naidu, who is the incoming director of the Nelson Arts Festival, came up with the idea for "Cultural Conversations" and hopes the festival will continue to involve different communities in the coming years.

"I understood when I was living here last year that there was a new migrant population moving into Nelson, whether it was refugee migrants or just new migrants, and I thought it would be really cool to have an idea where groups could be part of the arts festival in some way," she said.

The invitation to the migrant communities had been well received and she had also witnessed plenty of positive responses from those visiting the tent.

"The last comment I heard yesterday as I was leaving was 'oh thank you so much, you've made me so happy', so that was really delightful, just to be able to go and meet people, talk to them about what they want to share, ask questions and just engage in a really informal manner."

The Sri Lankan group held their "cultural conversations" on last Saturday and Sunday, with a performance earlier this week on Monday.

The Bhutanese group have been there from 22-24 October.

The Colombian group will finish the week, with performances on Friday, 3pm-4pm, Saturday and Sunday , 1.30pm-2.15pm and 6pm-6.45pm.

The public is invited to come for a South American dance lesson taking place on each of those final three days at 4:30pm.

The week of cultural activities will culminate in a groups' performance on the Church Steps at 7pm on Monday, Labour Day, to coincide with the final night of Piki Mai, the light installation at the same spot.

Nelsonians are invited to bring blankets, chairs and torches to enjoy the dancing and music from the Sri Lankan, Bhutanese and Colombian groups before the final Piki Mai showing.

Source: Hannah Bartlett14:22, Oct 24 2019 Stuff



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