Saturday, 14 February 2015

Cultural Events in Greater Vancouver

Attending Cultural Events is always fun. Here some suggestions - but please do not feel limited to my list. Enjoy - and tell us about your experience!

Café Deux Soleils – Poetry Slam:

Pandora’s Collective Literary Events:

Firehall Arts Centre – Theatre:

The Cultch – Shows:

PUSH Festival (Jan 20 to Feb 8):

World Hijab Day (Feb 1):

Maha Shivatri (Feb 17)

Lunar New Year Celebrations (Feb 19 to 22):

BC Heritage Week on Main Street (Feb 16 to 22):

Carnival (Feb 16 & 17):

Black History Month (Feb 1 to Feb 28):
See also: Black Strathcona Project:

Chutzpah Festival (Feb 19 to Mar 16):

Holi – Indian Festival of Colours (March 4-6):

Vancouver Web Fest (Mar 6 to 8):

Celtic Fest (Mar 7 to 17):

International Day of Happiness (Mar 20):

Sharing our Stories – Canadian-Iranian Culture (Oct to March 28th):

Vancouver International Dance Festival (Mar 2-29):

Pesach (Apr 3 to 11):

Vaisakhi (Apr 11 to14):


  1. On February 14th, I went to the Women’s Day Memorial March. I had never been before and on my way I was anxious. I did not know what to expect. I think part of me assumed it would be mostly a somber, emotional time. When I arrived, I was surprised at the mood around Carnegie Hall and what I witnessed: people passing around cardboard hearts in memory of lost loved ones to make sure everyone lost was represented and not forgotten, laughter, reporters and photographers hanging off of street posts, and mundane conversations being had. Of course, I did not see the ceremony within the hall and I would imagine that would be a far more emotional, personal space where private stories were shared. Before the March began, there was a speech, reminding the people who were in attendance why we were marching and the importance of witnessing and remembering as a collective group of people. And then the march began. We stopped at several major intersection where women have gone missing or been emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually abused. It was an incredibly sobering and overwhelming experience for me. I am so thankful I beared witness to this event alone and I was able to share the pain of those who have been directly impacted by the racism, poverty and structural violence of our city and our governments. Being able to reflect made me aware of what I can do as an individual and what I do that may contribute or perpetuate the unjust system that I am apart of.
    Being a part of the Women’s Memorial March had a profound affect upon me and I know will be an event that I take part in annually.

  2. I recently went to see a play at The Cultch called Motherload. I'm not sure if it's still being played there now, but if it is, I high recommend it! When I first agreed to go see the play I thought it wouldn't be interesting, I had it described to me as a "play about mothers telling their stories and experiences about being a mom." It didn't sound very interesting but my friend wanted me to go with her and I'm glad I did! It's a dark comedy play which goes in depth about very real stories of motherhood that we don't always hear. One story told was about a mother who experienced overcoming her abusive actions by seeing them being reflected in her own son's violence. It was a very unique story and the actor's portray of it was very real. The play really reminded me to go home and to tell my mom that she is a great mom. There are a lot of struggles in motherhood that are not always talked about. I highly recommend the play to everyone, it deals with a lot of serious subject matter but it is full of comedy too.

  3. Over reading break I went to the UBC Slam night at Benny's Bagels with a few of my friends. They happen every other Wednesday throughout the school year, and I've been going since my first year, just to see other people perform. My friend Tanner had never been before so it was really cool to see him experience it for the first time! Slam nights are always really great because you get to see people your own age who are students expressing themselves in really powerful ways. Some of the poems are very funny, but some are really sad and thought-provoking. They all let you see things from other perspectives.
    Because the Slam was over reading break, it was an informal one, so the normal Slam rules didn't apply. This meant that some people also read some traditional poems, including a really great one by Dorothy Parker that I wish I could remember the title of! I like it because I feel like most poetry I read is in English classes, so it's approached from a very academic context, and it's easy to forget how beautiful poetry is just being read aloud in a café.

  4. We were in the right place, at exactly the right time….. In the midst of completing our group presentation on Green Grass, Running Water, I (husband in tow) ducked out to UBC to spend a Sunday afternoon (March 8th) at the Museum of Anthropology-we had no idea that the MOA had scheduled the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival for that weekend OR that we would spend the afternoon mesmerized by the dances and dancers from the Yukon to southern British Columbia. All explained the stories behind their dances, first in their own language then in English, but just image the opening…..
    Performances started off-stage, at the back of the ramp that leads down into the atrium filled with village poles and carved house beams. Drummers initiated the action, participants began to sing the traditional lyrics, and finally, the troupe would wind its way down the aisle to a stage backlit by the western sky. The joy they felt permeated the crowd. This beginning, we were told, represented the arrival of visitors, primarily, of course, by canoe, and that the drumming and singing let others know they were coming. All appeared in full, traditional regalia - some masked, some not.
    The Musqueam Tsatsu Stalqaya (Coast Wolf Pack) was a small group (less than 10) of varied ages - but reinforced by the presence of a small boy no older than 5-6. He and a few of the older ‘tween’ performers, coupled with elders well-versed in drumming and singing, obviously loved what they were doing.
    Dakhká Khwáan, the Inland Tlingit (lower Yukon/upper BC) troupe were absolutely amazing! The troupe had obtained their elders’ permission to wear traditional robes/capes that dated from 1840 (yes, that date is correct) - beautifully woven works delineating tribal totems, with long fringes that swayed when they danced. I have pictures of those robes - they were the only ones I took that day - that I wish I could share. They were a large troupe with one young mother dancing with her baby cradled to her chest. They were well-led, well-rehearsed, in command.
    Cree/Métis Jeanette Kotowich, if not indigenous to the West Coast, is intimately familiar with her ancestral dances. She is a professionally trained graduate of the Simon Fraser dance program and riveting to watch. The Gitxsan, interestingly, told more peaceful stories. Git Haystsk, a Vancouver-based troupe led by Mike and Mique’l Dangeli, presented ancestral pieces as well as newly choreographed ones that depict their culture in the world today (Mique’l, interesting, has just submitted her PhD thesis at UBC, will defend shortly, then return to the North to do further work with her people.
    We were teary-eyed at end-of-day, on our feet, dancing like orcas (or trying to). If we did not understand all of the First Nations languages we heard that afternoon, we most definitely understood that we had witnessed and been part of a re-birthing of First Nations culture and traditions. The ride home was almost silent.

  5. Through my position as a residence advisor I not only have to create events for residents but I get to attend my fellow advisors events they put on. A few weeks ago there was a lunar new year event held where residents could learn about the significance of lunar new year and also learn how to make traditional dumplings. While I didn't go to the lunar new year parade downtown or any elaborate public event, this program was very interesting for me. It was a very inmate gathering and because of this small setting people whose families celebrate lunar new year got to share their holiday with people such as my self who had little previous knowledge on the tradition. It was a fantastic cultural exchange, because not only did I learn a lot but many residents who traditionally celebrate Lunar new year are at school away from their homes and so they couldn't be with their families to celebrate.Therefore this event essentially gave them a place where they could celebrate with others hopefully lightening possible feelings of homesickness during this important time. As a Ukrainian - Canadian I grew up making perogies with my grandmother and so being taught how to make Chinese dumplings was super fun. Making perogies and dumping have a fairly similar process and so it was interesting to see how such different cultures could have these commonalities. I also got to experience a Holi festival for the first time last week. While there was less of a formal education aspect it was a very fun experience. It was like nothing I had ever done before so it was a really interesting experience.

  6. What exactly is identity? Is it something we are given? Perhaps it is something we have learned, or something we have created. Identity shapes us, makes us, all in a subjective manner unbearably close to home.

    On February 28th, 2015 I visited the Aboriginal Wellness Center to hear Doctor Gabor Maté speak of “Recovery: Finding the True Self”.

    The experience was far from easy. The event consisted mainly of speaking of the self, identity, trauma and the residential schools in regards to First Nations communities as well as the greater public.

    I will reiterate for your benefit the proceeding events of February 28th 2015. I took notes on his speech, so this should sound quite like what he spoke about.

    What is the true self? How do we know we are disconnected from ourselves? The truth is, we are all disconnected from ourselves and we are hungry in the struggle, trying to find something to connect with? So, how do we know the disconnect? Well we can feel it, it’s the gut feeling and if we don’t listen to its slightest inclination, well then we disconnect. We are all born with gut feelings and connection- we become disconnected. Its too hard for a baby to admit to itself that its parents don’t know how to love. We desperately try to find some sort of compensation for our hardship, our disconnect in order to feel as though we fit in, and our deserving of love. We develop substitutes for our real selves: we become charming so people will always love us, even though we do not love ourselves; we become doctors so we are always needed; we become demanding when we are not heard; we become promiscuous to feel a whole inside of us that was left when no body answered. So the real question is, why do we give up our real selves? As children, we disconnect to be loved, we disconnect if our culture makes us and then we find ourselves as addicts. I will define addiction as any behavior leading to a negative outcome. Addiction can come in many forms. Addiction emerges from a loss of connection, a loss of love and therefore acts as an attempt to solve a problem. The drug works for awhile, it curse our pain and then it doesn’t work anymore. And the addiction only makes the pain worse but that is not addiction. There is a part of ourselves that leads us to a point of suffrage to wake up. It will be there, poking you: Its hand there to wake you up. The real question is, how do we re-connect? Firstly, we have to notice that we are not connected. You have to be compassionate, and not angry at your self for not being your self. In the past First Nations communities prior to colonialism would embrace solitude, walks in nature and spirit quests were a part of life and ones identity. In today’s society we victimize and condemn solitude; we are afraid of solitude because we are afraid of ourselves. We are designed to connect as people, as humans. In our past, our ancestors were ceremonious; we would mediate, pray and chant. These symbols of ceremonious connection were done in the group setting as well as an individual setting. How can we open the doors so that we can move forward as a people? We must be conscious, in everything we do. How do you feel at this moment?

    There was a point during the Q&A period where a man stood up. He said, “MY name is John Lytton. My Indian name is John Lytton. My government name is John Lytton. But I don’t know who John Lytton is.” This man is a survivor of the Residential Schools.

    After the talk, a First Nations elder came up and sang. Her words soared high into the corners of the tall room and we all felt like we were home.

    Complimentary “Indian Tacos” were served (bannock and chili). I spoke to some elders at the wellness show and I left with only questions

    1. This sounds like a life-changing experience, Nauvme. I believe there is much truth in what you heard and shared. The seeking of one's identity, sometimes, seems to be a universal "quest" with limitless twists and turns that almost always give rise to more and more questions. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. At the Cultch:Transmigration
    Kaha-we Dance Theatre Company

    It’s infinitely interesting how much I learn each time I find myself at a ‘cultural event’. Last Thursday, I attended Kana-We’s dance/theatre performance at the Cultch. The company, led by founder/artistic director/choreographer, Santee Smith, presented a work based on the life of Norval Morriseau (1932-2007), self-taught Ojibwa artist, founder of the Woodlands School of Canadian Art, and founding member of the Indian Group of Seven -factoids I did NOT (unfortunately) learn from the program notes but had to research prior/post event. I was peripherally acquainted with the artist and his work, having seen a number of his pieces in various installations over the years.
    The performance itself spans a short 90 minutes and is divided into two acts. The first is dark, the focus on an emerging artist tortured by his (and his people’s) extensive abuse of alcohol, drugs, and sex, with the artist successfully emerging (Man into Thunderbird) three times. The second act, shorter than the first, shines the spotlight on the latter part of a life fraught with Parkinson’s disease, with Man into Thunderbird appearing another three times, and leading into the finale, Astral Ascension.
    The troupe is an eclectic one. The role of Morriseau is played by veteran actor, Billy Merasty who does not participate in the dance portion of the work. The six aboriginal dancers (3 of each gender) are grounded in varied forms of dance, from the classical training of Canada’s National Ballet (Santee) through a myriad of contemporary schools through to the Anishnaabe traditional one whose art was presented by veteran Nimkii Osawamick. The latter’s hoop dances, I must admit, often drew my eyes from the whatever else was going on onstage. Overall, Santee overcame with ease the difficulty of merging the art form of acting with dancing, then transmuting the dance forms into a cohesively choreographed presentation in honour of the esteemed Norval Morriseau.
    The man’s history is intriguing. In brief, Morriseau is of Anishnaabe/Ojibwe descent, born in northern Ontario, and raised (apparently in accordance with tradition) by his maternal grandparents, who exposed him to the shamanist beliefs of his grandfather and the staunchly Catholic ones of his grandmother. His residential school tenancy lasted a mere 2 years; his self-taught art began to emerge thereafter. Desperately ill at the age of 19, Morriseau was healed by a medicine woman who performed a re-naming ceremony. In it, he acquired the name Copper Thunderbird. This (using the Cree syllabary) is the signature that appears on the artist’s work which features (generally) strong forms, brightly coloured, that are separated by fluid black outlines. The artist spent a great deal of time on the West Coast, and succumbed, finally, to the complications associated with Parkinson’s disease in the home of his adopted family in Nanaimo.
    I’d love to carry on…but please, do take the time to Google images of Morriseau’s work. They are truly brilliant and definitely representative of a rich aboriginal culture of which we know so little, from which we could learn so much.

  8. In February, I attended the Lunar Year Festival down by the Vancouver Art Gallery. There were lots of miniature sheep figurines scattered over the walkway but the main attraction was a series of dragon dances performed by a group out of Taiwan. The performers were only in high school but it was amazing. One thing I remembered though was how my mother was talking to a young woman who was of Chinese descent but said she felt very removed from her culture. She wanted to learn as much as possible about Chinese traditions and was here experiencing this celebration as a means of bridging the gap between herself and her heritage. The MC of the event also mentioned something similar; the performers traveled around the world to bring an aspect of Chinese culture to other people, including those of Chinese ancestry who felt unfamiliar with their cultural traditions. In relation to Canada, where there is always a struggle for minority groups to identify themselves due to disparity between beliefs, the need to fit in and often racist pressures from outside, I am glad that aside from being beautiful and fun, cultural festivals such as these also allow for Canadians to experience a part of themselves that may have become lost during the struggle in finding their sense of (cultural) self-identity.

    1. Hey! This sounded like a really great experience. I've always walked by it, but never really thought much of it, nor did I want to participate. But the lady's idea of this celebration in Vancouver as a means of "bridging the gap between herself and her heritage," really spoke to me as somebody who also feels.. quite "removed from her culture." I think I'll definitely join in next year, instead of just being at home and receiving my red packet hahaha Thanks for sharing!! :)

  9. I recently had the opportunity to attend a Passover ceremony! while this was not the first time I have gone to a seder, it is always an interesting experience and I get to reflect on just how bizarre religious traditions can be while still being completely logical. The most notable feature of the ceremony is the singing rituals involved throughout the meal. Most of the prayers are sung, so there is lots of singing going on. I find this interesting because it seems like many other religions are very solemn about prayer, where as Judaism is all about singing! It took hours before we finally ate, as each ritual takes time and there is lots of wine drinking involved. There are several interesting foods that appear on the Seder plate; my favourite is the apples and cinnamon and least favourite the horse radish.

  10. Over the recent long weekend I had a lovely time with Easter dinner at my best friend's house. Being non-Christian, my family and I don't celebrate Easter, so it was interesting going to an "Easter dinner" for the first time. Of course, I know that not everyone who celebrates Easter celebrates it in the same way, but from what I've gathered, Easter dinners are a way to gather the family and to be grateful that you are able to come together and share a meal. It was special, but it wasn't formal, and besides her own family and myself, my friend's family had invited some neighbours and family friends who either didn't really have a family to go home to or didn't have a way of going to them. As my friend's mother said grace and expressed gratitude - both for Jesus' rebirth and for being surrounded by food, friends and family - I had no problem bowing my head, saying "Amen." The friend is question is probably my best friend in the entire world, and we have no problem acknowledging that we have had different experiences growing up in different cultural backgrounds (I'm Canadian-born-Chinese with Buddhist tendencies and immigrant parents, she's half El Salvadoran and half Anglo Canadian and she's of Catholic faith). It's always been a wonderful relationship of understanding, or sharing when we don't understand. Religious and cultural differences exist, and they can be used beautifully or horribly. It was definitely used beautifully at that dinner, where what mattered was that we were together, that we were happy, and that we had so much to share. What matters is that love translates.

  11. Volunteering as part of the executive team of the non-profit organization, Hope for Happiness, the International Day of Happiness was quite special for us because, to start, both our official names have the word “Happiness” in them! As well, both our objectives are dedicated to promoting happiness and well-being in the world in all aspects such as social, economical, and environmental aspects. During this time, we were actually preparing for our then-upcoming Samosa Sale fundraiser. On the International Day of Happiness, I was helping out Hope for Happiness with our social media contest/promotion for our samosa sale fundraiser and I was approached by a lady who, after participating in our social media campaign asked me about Hope for Happiness. After explaining to her what we were all about and how we were raising money to build an organic sustainable farm for a village in Mugeta, Tanzania, she asked me the question “So you’re saying… You believe that by providing the villagers this organic and sustainable farm, that will give them healthy produce and jobs, they will be able to have happiness? Because that is what your organization is doing? Providing this “hope” for “happiness?” Just something to think about, if you will.” I will admit, this question definitely caught me off-guard. It made me wonder if having these things: organic healthy food, a job, and social, economic and environmental stability were the things that equaled to happiness. I thought that this was what the International Day of Happiness was all about, promoting well-being in all aspects of life. However, after being asked such a question, I definitely began to ponder the concept of “happiness” once again. Nonetheless, though, I still am very much in favour of the International Day of Happiness and how it aims to promote happiness in all aspects of life.

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  13. A couple weekends ago, I went to see the musical, The Book of Mormon, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I am an enormous theatre and musical theatre fan and so I see quite my fair share of theatre. I was astounded by the turn out for The Book of Mormon. The QE was packed, the show was sold out and contrarily to most theatre performances, and the majority of the audience was young people. I’m very accustomed to going to shows around the city and being one of the youngest people there - seated in an audience surrounded by white hair. If I’m completely honest, I was nearly brought to tears I was so thrilled. For an art form that has been panned for being cheesy, superficial, boring and out of date, The Book of Mormon is an example that musical theatre is versatile and adaptable to a whole realm of subject matter. The Book of Mormon is Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s (of South Park fame) first full musical. While the satirical musical pokes fun at tradition musical theatre tropes, it also uses the art form to it’s advantage, achieving a level of emotional depth through it’s marriage of song, dance and acting and delivering important morals while still maintaining the tradition Parker/Stone humour. Although it has received some bad reviews, that hasn't curved its success – something that was clearly evident by the audience’s reaction at the QE - thus proving that musical theatre is evolving and making a definite comeback.

  14. On Saturday, January 31, I attended an eye-opening show held by the PuSH Festival, ‘Char Bagh,’ at Performance Works in Granville Island. The meaning ‘Char Bagh’ is a Persian-style quadrilateral garden separated by water and trimmed pathways; a safe space that did not tolerate hostility, but rather communal sharing of interlingual exchanges and contemplation of one’s identity and cultural upbringing into the context of Canada.

    We were gifted with the presence of three talented artists: Toronto writer and poet Rupi Kaur who shocked the audience (in a good way!) with her complete rawness and honesty in poetry lines about relationships with people close to her, rapper Mandeep Sethi who ‘spits’ hip hop with a social conscience, and finally ending it off with graffiti artist Nisha K. Sembi responding to his raps.

    By combining Indian culture with hip-hop culture, the audience got to experience an enchanting and exhilarating adventure that broke through traditional boundaries of cultural limitations. These artists brought forth a fresh, eccentric and electrifying urban/cultural aesthetic, and soon enough I was immersed in a crowd of art-appreciating folks who saw the beauty in rule-bending. With the bending of rules in music, visual arts and storytelling, the three artists manipulated and reconstructed old traditions to speak new tongues of inspiration. Their stories speak not only of identity, but about immigrant experiences, class and love.

  15. On April 18, I was driving back to Surrey from UBC and I stopped to see the Vaisakhi parade in which multiple cultures come together to share their interests in food, culture, dance and art. Vaisakhi has been the time when farmers have put their sickles to harvest and celebrated the coming of a new year. Since 1699, the Sikhs have had a reason to celebrate at this time of the year. Today, Vaisakhi is celebrated with even more energy. It has become a holy day to mark the birth of the Khalsa fraternity. And so 300+ years on, this tradition continues with much gaiety, vigour and enthusiasm. Sikhs worldwide will spend much time remembering this most important day: the day the Khalsa was created. This day means quite a bit to multiple cultures and experiencing it first hand was quite overwhelming. Thousands of people were in attendance for a religious meaning. I couldn't imagine how many people would show up if it were located in India.

  16. On March 6th I went to the Holi Indian Festival of Colours with two of my friends. I have been to a small celebration of Holi before when I lived in residence my first year of university. It was such a fun experience I was excited to go to a bigger celebration this year. I enjoy the Holi celebration because there is loud music, bright colours, and smiling faces. I always find that everyone is so happy and it makes the start of spring so positive. It puts me in a good mood and is a memory I can always cherish. Holi was a great break from studying for midterms and writing papers. I found that I could carry the spirit and happiness from Holi not only throughout the day, but the whole season of spring.

  17. On April 17 I went to the Vaisakhi parade with my friends. Vaisakhi is a huge annual Sikh celebration that marks the New Year and the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699. This was my first time attending a Vaisakhi celebration and it was a great experience for me. The streets were packed with people and there was so much to do and see. There were many events going on such as the parade as well as music and dancing. Also, the best part was that there were lots of new foods that I got to try. By attending this celebration, I got to experience and be part of another culture as well as learn a little more about the special meaning this day holds for many people.

  18. The Ederlezi festival is coming up May 8 & 9 at the Grandview Legion. I recently joined a Balkan style brass band called Orkestar Slivovica, which specializes in mainly Serbian and Romani music. We are also performing with Demiran Cerimovic, a multi-time winner of the Guca festival in Serbia and world renowned trumpet master. Three other bands from seattle are joining us. Check out for more info!

  19. I noticed a number of other people mentioning events related to theatre in the comments, so I'll add mine in too! While it was certainly far from a conventional cultural event, in March I took my boyfriend to see the Sunday Service as the Fox. For those of you who haven't heard of it or who have never had the chance to go, The Sunday Service is an award-winning improv group that performs a weekly show. They have become incredibly popular over the past couple years and their shows now typically sell out about an hour before showtime (given that they perform weekly and that tickets can't be purchased in advance I think this is pretty impressive!) We had a fantastic time. Perhaps I'm biased as I spent a year and a half performing with UBC Improv, but I've noticed that improvisational theatre was really bloomed in Vancouver over the past few years, and a lot of the performances around the city are truly spectacular. Vancouver isn't typically known as a hub of arts and culture, but I think it would be very cool if improv could become something our city became known for! For those interested, the Sunday Service performs weekly at 8pm at the Fox Cabaret. I believe tickets are $7, making it a great cheap date ;)