Together We Rise Arts Festival was a celebration of Greater Toronto Area’s Asian diaspora artists and cultural organizations, featuring multi-disciplinary arts programming on the weekend of June 2-3, 2023. This “festival of festivals” programming included a mix of live performing arts, film screenings, in-person workshops, and multimedia installations, all of which were accessible to family audiences, and highlighted the creativity, diversity, and innovation of Scarborough.
CASSA worked with Toronto-based community arts organizations to co-produce and co-present the Together We Rise Arts Festival to celebrate the Scarborough community’s rich heritage and artistic talents. These partner organizations included the Nagata Shachu Japanese Taiko and Music Group, Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, tiger princess dance projects (tpdp), Japan Foundation Toronto, Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture, and Empowered Phụ Nữ
CASSA’s Intergenerational Storytelling event was held on June 3rd, both indoors and outdoors, at the Scarborough Civic Centre’s Albert Campbell Square and in the Raymond Moriyama-designed building. The event featured a variety of engaging activities and performances centered around the theme of anti-racism, anti-oppression, discrimination, and the challenges faced during the settlement process. The aim was to explore and reflect upon the struggles experienced by individuals and communities, with the goal of fostering a deeper understanding and driving positive social change.
The storytelling circle was led by Pirathajini Chandrakumar and Amal El Sadig. Pirathajini shared her personal experience of immigrating to Canada as a “1.5 generation immigrant”. She highlighted the hurdles of settling in a new country and shared instances of discrimination, particularly within the school environment. Through art and crafts, Pirathajini skillfully conveyed the sensory aspects of her journey and the transformative process of seeking to belong in a new community. Amal El Sadig, a resilient senior, bravely shared her own compelling story of escaping her war-torn country in search of refuge in Canada, only to encounter hardships and homelessness along the way. As a survivor, she has transformed her experiences into a catalyst for change, utilizing her voice to raise awareness about the dire conditions in Sudan and passionately advocating for the eradication of female genital mutilation. Amal’s unwavering dedication to shedding light on these pressing issues serves as an inspiration to others and reinforces the urgent need for global action and support.
During the event, Noor Fadel delivered a powerful spoken word poetry piece titled ‘Two Faces of War,’ which reflected on her mother’s harrowing experiences during the war and the sacrifices she made to protect her children. The juxtaposition of innocent childhood experiences with the brutal realities of conflict created a vivid contrast. As the narrative unfolded, Noor delved into the challenges of seeking safety in a new land, only to encounter different forms of prejudice and hostility. It emphasized the importance of empathy and embracing diversity.
One of the highlights was an awe-inspiring performance by a group of Toronto-based Tamil performers, Ahkenam Arts, who skillfully wielded the Parai, the oldest Indigenous drums that originated from South India. The rhythmic beats, dynamic choreography, and cultural expressions brought the traditional drums to life, conveying a powerful message. The Parai drum, historically associated with oppressed Dalit communities, has been reclaimed as a symbol of Dalit cultural identity and social freedom. By raising awareness of caste oppression in its historical and sociopolitical context, the performance aimed to combat discrimination and promote understanding.
Lastly, CASSA hosted a screening of informative animated videos from our Hate Crime Reporting Project and #EradicateHate 2.0 project, which were made accessible in multiple languages, including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Urdu, and Tamil. The Hate Crime Reporting Project animations provided explanations of hate-motivated crimes, hate incidents, and the process of reporting such incidents to the police. The #EradicateHate 2.0 animations explored the impacts of online hate, the role of change agents in combating hate, fostering discussions with family and friends about online hate, and even included a helpful breathing exercise. These animations were designed to educate and empower viewers, equipping them with valuable knowledge and practical tools to address and counteract hate in their communities and online spaces.
With COVID-19 having had a significant impact on the local art world and anti-Asian hate continuing to rise, this event fostered deeper engagement and collaboration between the participating organizations and artists and shared their work for free with the community.
‘Two Faces of War’ by Noor Fadel
The project is funded by the Government of Canada