‘Unity in Diversity’ at new Diwali event

SURREY – When it comes to cultural events in the Lower Mainland, it’s no use to mince words: Vancouver, as the hub of much cultural activity, sees bigger turnouts and glitzier affairs than events in Surrey.


That’s why Surrey’s incarnation of the Hindu Diwali festival, which has been celebrated in Vancouver for 11 years, is enlisting the help of Rohit Chokhani, coproducer of Vancouver’s Diwali Fest, for a second year.


Chokhani, general manager of Touchstone Theatre on Granville Island, said Diwali Fest has enjoyed much success in Vancouver for the past 11 years, but the festival will see a full-day celebration for the first time in Surrey.


"Our organization (Diwali Fest) started 11 years ago," Chokhani told the Now. "It started predominantly as a Vancouver event but we really wanted to expand our operations in Surrey. Last year we did a dinner-anddance pre-event and then we did a small chai house in the Surrey Arts Centre and both were really well received…. This is our first year where we’re doing a full-scale main event in Surrey, in addition to Vancouver."


The event, Diwali Downtown, will take place at Surrey’s new city hall on Saturday, Oct. 18 from 3 to 7 p.m., and will feature Bhangra dancing, henna, sari workshops and more. This year’s theme is "Unity in Diversity," and Chokhani asserts that there will be inclusive, fusion elements to the traditionally South Asian festival.


The actual holiday of Diwali is


on Thursday, Oct. 23.


"Our mandate has been focused on creating more fusion fun and actually branching out into other cultures because the Lower Mainland is so much about diversity," he said. "Our goal is to attract people from various cultures and traditionally we’ve seen a lot of different cultures perform and how fusion forms evolve in our festival."


One of those elements, he teased, would be a bhangra flash mob.


"The bhangra, we are doing


it in a flash-mob-by kind of environment," Chokhani said, "so there’s fusion components in that. We are taking bhangra but we are presenting in a very westernized form."


The Diwali Fest organization benefited from the city’s cultural grant program for the 2013 events put on in Surrey, and will again for 2014’s Diwali Downtown festival, which will be free to the public.


"We are always programming things in a way that it’s fusion and from the heart of where the


traditional started," Chokhani said.


In conjunction with the festival at Surrey City Hall at centre stage is a drop-in festival by Surrey Libraries at Fleetwood Community Centre (15996 84th Ave.) on Saturday (Oct. 18).


The free event runs from 1 to 3 p.m. and will include henna, sari wrapping and games.


IndiGlam, a ticketed event happening the night before (Oct. 17), will kick off both Vancouver and Surrey’s Diwali Fests and will take place at Surrey’s Crown Palace Banquet Hall at 6 p.m.


Acting as an opening gala, the evening will be a dinner and dance, featuring live music, a fashion show and dance performances by Shiamak Dance Group.


Tickets are $45 and can be purchased online at Brownpapertickets.com.


Another Diwali gala, the seventh annual SFU Diwali Gala, will also take place at the Crown Palace Banquet Hall in Surrey. The event will host important people in business, government and the community, as well as SFU alumni, faculty and students. The gala raises funds to send SFU students to volunteer in Indian villages and cities. Tickets can be bought at SFU.ca/invite/diwali, for $64 per person or $520 for a table of eight.


White Rock’s Diwali Integration Festival will take place on Oct. 18 from noon to 8 p.m. The Sanatan Cultural Society of B.C. is hosting the "festival of lights" event along the White Rock waterfront at West Beach. Activities include local and international artists performing, singing, dancing, vendors, food, palmistry/astrology, face painting and fireworks at dusk. The objective of Sanatan Cultural Society is "to promote Indian cultural activities among fellow Canadians and create a spirit of multiculturalism."


In North Delta, a Diwali celebration is set for Friday, Oct. 24 at Firehall Centre for the Arts, 11489 84th Ave. The all-ages event, to run from 1 to 6 p.m., will include rangoli, a chance to decorate and take home your own diya, henna tattoos and sweets. Admission is $2 per person.



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