This upcoming weekend from November 19th to November 21st is the South Asian Celebration in Lake Country. What started out to be an exhibit at the Lake Country Museum on the 21st quickly turned into a weekend-long celebration of South Asian stories, art, and culture with numerous opportunities to engage in educational experiences, art experiences, and culinary experiences. In anticipation for this event, The Phoenix was honoured to be able to speak with the event coordinator, Sami, who spoke about the event, how it came to be, and why this is an important opportunity to hear and celebrate the stories from the South Asian community in Lake Country and the Central Okanagan.

An Opportunity to Explore

The museum exhibit, titled “South Asian Reflections” will open on November 20th, 2021. “This exhibit will capture and celebrate the stories of South Asian community members who live in Lake Country and the Central Okanagan,” Sami stated. “[It] will document their stories in writing, video, and there will be artifacts that represent the local population.”

On November 19th the celebration events will begin and go on until the end of the weekend. “In order to celebrate the launch of this exhibit, we wanted to create a space to be able to share the culture and share the stories of migrants to Lake Country,” Sami continued to explain.

“The exhibit tells the stories in one way through the documentation,” Sami stated, “and through the cultural event, through singing, through dance, through poetry, through film, we are sharing those migrant stories and experiences in a different form.”

What’s more, Sami revealed that the celebration also offers a culinary experience. “Made In India, a restaurant in Lake Country, will be offering a special that weekend for people to go in and try Indian cuisine,” she said. “[They are] offering a discount and thali, a mix of different foods. It is normally only their lunchtime offer but they are also offering it at dinner for that weekend only.”

An Opportunity to Learn

The Okanagan Library in Lake Country is also participating in this celebration. “From Friday to Sunday, you can go to the Okanagan Library in Lake Country and they will have a section at the front of books that are published by South Asian authors so there is also an educational opportunity for others to learn and also celebrate these stories,” Sami stated. “A lot of these books are written about these people’s experiences. I think about children’s books and to be able to see yourself and hear your stories in that medium is important.”

Having helped compile the list of books to be displayed at the library herself, Sami explained why she sought out works by Canadian authors with South Asian roots specifically: “There are a lot of books that people might not have even known are written by Canadian authors,” she began. 

“To find BC authors or find Canadian authors that are from our communities that have published literature is a reminder for every student that whatever you are doing, whatever path you are pursuing, there are all these opportunities here.” 

Thinking back to her own time as a student, Sami explained why students at UBCO would want to come join the celebration. “As a student, I think that was when I learned the most,” she stated. “I learned inside the classrooms at school, but it was those real lived experiences of being involved in the community where I got to apply what I learned in the classroom.”

An Opportunity to Engage and Be

COVID-19 has been a major obstacle in engaging with the arts over the last couple of years; however, even before the pandemic, spaces were very rarely given to BIPOC communities to share their stories, art, and cultures. As Sami emphasized, this event is an opportunity to take part, uphold, and celebrate this space of South Asian stories and cultures.

“Learning is an individual responsibility and I think in today’s day and age, there is so much opportunity at our fingertips to learn about different people’s cultures,” she began. “We live in such a diverse society; we know that there is a diversity of culture within our communities, from yourselves, your neighbours, to people you work with. Having spaces like this, in the sense of building community, is creating space to learn about each other’s cultures, learn about each other’s experiences, and understand those narratives in a different way.”

“One of the reasons for creating this was to create that kind of educational content and create meaningful conversations that would give a voice to the South Asian community,” Sami stated. “Hopefully this will result in a better understanding of multiculturalism and be able to build that sense of community across cultural differences.”

Sami went on to explain why the local aspect of this celebration is so crucial for understanding history and culture. “It is the local story. We hear of migration stories and the way of life in the lower mainland and it is still different from the Okanagan,” she said. “I think putting more of an emphasis on learning about the communities we live in and the people who live in these communities is what I am excited for in this exhibit, for people to be able to tell their own stories.”

Reflecting on her experiences growing up, Sami affirmed how and why this celebration offers a much needed change in the arts and culture industry. “When I was growing up, there was no media representation. I never saw people that looked like me. There was never a character with a South Asian name in any of the books I read,” she shared. “I think we have noticed that there has been a gap in the arts and culture industry as a whole in Canada and that there has always been these barriers for BIPOC artists and BIPOC communities. I think now, for us to be able to have these spaces to tell our stories is so important because everybody plays a role in the society that we live in and to make up the communities. We have to be able to create platforms to tell those diverse stories and I think this is going to be a great opportunity to do that.”

On November 20th at 1:00pm PDT, the South Asian Reflections Exhibit will launch at the Lake Country Museum & Archives and you can register to attend by registering online here. On Sunday November 21st from 3:00pm to 5:00pm PDT, the Creekside Theatre will be hosting the wrap-up event with a showcase of film, music, dance, poetry, and art. You can reserve your free tickets here. Starting Friday the 19th, the Lake Country Public Library will be promoting books from local and international South Asian authors in a range of genres. More information about the library can be found here. Last but not least, you can visit Made In India’s website and menu here and take a look at how you can receive the discount for the thali here.