By Alex Wilks, Surrey Now-Leader contributor
Shaken maracas and reverberating drum beats were just some of the instrumental sounds that could be heard from Bear Creek Park on July 9.
The four-hour Mother Language Festival featured various genres of music, dance performances and speeches about cultural diversity.
“We invite all different mother languages, it’s open,” said Mohammad Aminul Islam, president of the Mother Language Lovers of the World Society (MLLWS).
“Our language is our identity, so if we come here that’s proving our identity.”
The fifth annual celebration was created so that people living in the Surrey community, as well as other municipalities, could come and share their multiculturalism, he explained.
“This is the homeland of International Mother Language Day — a global celebration that was introduced by Islam and his organization and declared a holiday by UNESCO — we should be proud of it,” he added.
There are 172 mother languages spoken in the City of Surrey, Islam noted.
First Nations, African, Nepali, Bangladeshi, El Salvadoran, Chinese, Indian and Filipino were some of the cultures performing that Sunday evening.
Representing the First Nations people, LaDonna Wiks-Hindmarch, along with her daughters, opened the celebration dressed in hand-woven, bright red button blankets.
“I started hanging out with elders and listening to their stories and then taking that knowledge that I gained to write,” said Wiks-Hindmarch. “That allowed me to be more hungry to learn the knowledge of our ancestors, and then I put it into song.”
They drummed and sang in their native Kwak’wala language while the audience contributed by clapping in sync.
“I believe that there needs to be more celebrations where there’s multiculturalism,” said Wiks-Hindmarch. “There needs to be an understanding and knowledge shared amongst all the cultures.”
Close to 400 people attended the festivities throughout the evening, enjoying Indian sweets and other snacks provided by the organizers.
MLLWS strives to strengthen the love for a person’s mother language and the respect they have for other languages. It raises awareness among all people and even protects minority languages, Islam explained.
Islam and his organization was recently recognized at the 2017 Mayor’s Art Awards for promoting linguistic diversity within Surrey by the introduction of International Mother Language Day, celebrated province-wide on Feb. 21 each year. He also received a Cultural Ambassador Award for his work in preserving cultural heritage.