DIWALI FEST: Surrey celebrates at ‘signature’ event at city hall on Nov. 5

'By making it free and donations-only, we aim to make it accessible to the public at large,' says artistic producer Rohit Chokhani

Dancers with Shiamak Davar International

SURREY — An afternoon of performing arts from multiple cultures will celebrate the South Asian “festival of lights” at Surrey City Hall on Saturday, Nov. 5.

“Diwali Downtown Surrey” is an annual event brought here as part of Diwali Fest, a regional festival that runs from Oct. 11 to Nov. 30.

The gathering in Surrey, among the festival’s “signature” events, features contemporary and classical Indian music, dance, food and interactive attractions.

Admission is free at the event, which runs from 3 to 7 p.m. Donations are welcomed.

“It’s definitely one of our showcase events,” said Rohit Chokhani, the artistic producer of Diwali Fest.

“By making it free and donations-only, we aim to make it accessible to the public at large, and it features a range of different acts, for all ages.”

The event is staged by Diwali Celebration Society with partial funding of $5,000 from Surrey’s Cultural Grant program.

Performers and guests at the event this year include Jacky Yenga & Friends, Karima Essa, Shiamak Vancouver, Karen Flamenco and Alicia Ohana, the current Miss Canada Petite.

“(Shiamak) do a high-energy, jam-packed performance to cap the event in Surrey,” explained Chokhani (PICTURED).

“Things like bhangra music are just one part of Indian culture, so we’re trying more and more to showcase other diverse South Asian art forms that come out of India,” he added.

“For example, this year we’re doing a Bengali showcase, so we’re celebrating the culture of that region,” Chokani said. “Also we’ll do a workshop on how to tie a sari, and men and women are both invited to that. There are many different ways of wearing a sari, more than 100 ways, and as a man I’m not aware of them all, but it is interesting to me.”

Chokani grew up in Mumbai, and his family still lives in India.

“(Diwali) is all about connecting with family, loved ones and also the public,” he said.

“The scale of Diwali is way different, much bigger, in India than it is here, of course, but celebrating Diwali for me here in B.C. has been more about celebrating the festival and offering people an artistic platform.”

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In B.C., it’s amazing how many Diwali celebrations now exist every fall, he said.

“I’m Hindu,” Chokani explained, “so if you go to a Hindu temple you get a lot of different festivities, so the details and the rituals might be different but the universal message of Diwali is the same, which is the victory of light over darkness, the good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. Those are universal values that important, no matter if you are Sikh or Hindu or Muslim or Jew, or male or female, sexual orientation or background, the concepts of Diwali are a unifying arc, and that’s why it’s become so globalized.”

A detailed list of Diwali Fest events, including Diwali Downtown Surrey, can be found online at Diwalifest.ca.



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