Multicultural festival a place for newcomers to 'start their journey' in N.S.

·3 min read
Sudha Hemnani and her friends and family are shown during a previous performance in Halifax. They will be doing a similar performance at Nova Multifest 2022.  (Submitted by Sudha Hemnani - image credit)
Sudha Hemnani and her friends and family are shown during a previous performance in Halifax. They will be doing a similar performance at Nova Multifest 2022. (Submitted by Sudha Hemnani - image credit)

When Vishal Bhardwaj moved to Nova Scotia from India in 2002, volunteering at the local multicultural festival gave him a new community in a place where he knew few people.

"It was a challenging time for me personally and this event, it really gave me a sense of belonging that I was able to connect with the people ... at least if I don't know their name, I know their familiar faces," Bhardwaj said.

In 2018, Bhardwaj became president of the new Nova Multifest Society when the board of the 32-year old previous multicultural festival collapsed. They had two festivals, then the pandemic hit and they were forced online.

This year, Bhardwaj is happy to see the festival come back after a two-year hiatus, taking place from July 22-24 at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth. He expects it to be the biggest year yet, with close to 50 performances and 30 vendors from various countries.

Submitted by Vishal Bhardwaj
Submitted by Vishal Bhardwaj

"I think we're expecting here, at least 15,000 or 20,000 [people]," he said. "Especially after the pandemic, people just want to get out and enjoy and be the normal life. They want to live it."

The festival is free for everyone, and runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Bhardwaj said they are still looking for volunteers, and anyone interested can sign up on their website. 

Chance to promote diverse businesses

Bhardwaj said the festival is a great place for tourists and locals to learn about many cultures, from Mi'kmaq to Caribbean to Chinese.

Nova Scotia set an immigration record in 2021, so he said it is also a crucial opportunity for newcomers to come together.

"You know, they start their journey," he said. "They cook their [local] food and then they start promoting. There's so many businesses who started at multicultural [festivals] and then they've grown it and now they're becoming employers for many people in the community."

Sudha Hemnani hopes to be one of them. She started her business designing and hand-making traditional Indian and modern clothing and accessories last October.

Submitted by Vishal Bhardwaj
Submitted by Vishal Bhardwaj

She's taking part in a performance on Saturday at the festival that will feature dances, clothing, music, and makeup from different states in India.

She has been working for months with 25 people to plan the performance, and hopes to gain business from the event.

"We are not only performing, we also have a booth for three days and we have really worked hard," Hemnani said. "We have more than 2,000 pieces from different styles and different fabrics and for men, kids and women, which we will be sharing with the public here."

Submitted by Sudha Hemnani
Submitted by Sudha Hemnani

Hemnani said she and her husband haven't seen their family since 2019 because of travel restrictions, but some relatives recently arrived from India to help them prepare for Multifest. Family and friends will be taking part in the performance, and she said there is excitement all around.

"Before any performance, there is nervousness that everything just should just go smoothly," Hemnani said. "But I think we are prepared and my point always for all the performers and collaborators that work with me, at the end of the day ... they should all have fun."

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