Mosaic Festival 2015 showcases women of various cultures

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A Mosaic of cultures
A MOSAIC OF CULTURES Diverse and colourful, the Mosaic Festival shows the different hues of culture and the uniqueness of women in traditions shown in wares, food, music and dance. Who better to organise this celebrated festival than Melba Marginson, one of Australia’s women of influence, and her board at the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition. Photo by George Gregorio

Mosaic Festival 2015 in MelbourneLast 26 April, the City Square was transformed into an interactive cultural marketplace, adorned with cultural displays, food stalls, dances, and teemed with women and girls in colourful traditional costumes.

After two successful years, the third Mosaic Festival that celebrates women in multicultural Victoria has gotten bigger this year.  The Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition (VIRWC) decided to move the location to the City Square after it received almost double the grant in previous years from the Victorian Government.

Mosaic Festival celebrates migrant and refugee women’s diversity and highlights their positive contributions to the Victorian community. Women are able to showcase their cultural identities and talents through music and dance. The festival is led and managed by women from immigrant, refugee and Anglo-Celtic backgrounds.  Entrance is free and activities are all family-friendly. There are playgroup leaders courtesy of VICSEG that provides activities for children.

The festival is led and managed by women from immigrant, refugee and Anglo-Celtic backgrounds.  Entrance is free and activities are all family-friendly. There are playgroup leaders courtesy of VICSEG that provides activities for children.

This year, more than 3,000 people flocked to the City Square. They were not discouraged by the cold weather and rain in the morning.  People passing along Swanson Street were enticed to look around and stayed as they were entertained by a continuous flow of performances on stage and the smell of food.  People queued to buy pork and chicken barbecues from Filipino-owned GJ’s Grill.  Nora Simkin of MiHub served Malaysian and Indonesian dishes and beautifully-wrapped sweets.  Niran Tabiei introduced Syrian and Iranian food and desserts.  Australian Hazara Women’s Network proudly served Afghan tea with traditional Pakoras.  Turkish bread freshly made with spinach and cheese were a big hit too, courtesy of Turkish Alevi Community Council.

Under a long marquee were arts and crafts displayed by VIRWC’s women’s friendship groups and Malaysian/Indonesian and Turkish women’s groups. There were also Korean and Chinese costumes displayed to show people how these can be worn. People were encouraged to get their photos taken using the cut-out dresses. There was also a real Mosaic art display wherein women artists showed people how to make them.

There were also Korean and Chinese costumes displayed to show people how these can be worn. People were encouraged to get their photos taken using the cut-out dresses. There was also a real Mosaic art display wherein women artists showed people how to make them.

The program started after 11am with three emcees, Ee’da Brahim, Candice Monique and Quashani Bahd.  From Indian, Lithuanian and African backgrounds respectively, the women blended well with their diverse personalities, colourful dresses and styles of showmanship.

The official opening began with the traditional Welcome to Country by Wurundjeri elder Gerogina Nicholson.  She was followed by a welcome by VIRWC Board Secretary Batsi Mangoma, a woman of Zimbabwean background. Then the Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott spoke about the importance of Mosaic as a multicultural event and the trust they put on the VIRWC and its CEO Melba Marginson in executing the event with high standard.  Councillor Jackie Watts of the City of Melbourne gave a rousing speech about the Council’s Multicultural policy and the Mosaic event being most aligned with it.

Community groups performed traditional and authentic dances from Cambodia, Philippines, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil. The Indian Classical dance was performed solo by Dilini Fernando.

The quality and authenticity of entertainment was apparent right from the start. The audience was obviously moved by the strong voices of Samoan Grace Vanilau, Palestinian Aseel Tayah and Indonesian Nika Suwarsih. Comedian Diana Nguyen’s brief performance as ‘Phi and Me’ got the crowd laughing and confused at the same time. The three emcees sang solos, leaving the crowd mesmerized.

The highlights of the festival were the group dances and workshops. Demi Sorono’s breakdance thrilled the audience and the Polynesian, Samba, and Bollywood dances got the audience dancing.

VIRWC Executive Director and Mosaic organiser Melba Marginson says, “We would like the Mosaic Festival to be a yearly event of, for and by women in Multicultural Victoria. This can only happen if both the state government and City of Melbourne will agree to fund the event together.”

Marginson further states, “our team of young women and men headed by event coordinator Erin Meeking shows how much better we can do things if only we seriously encourage and support our young people.”

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