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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Celebrating a Canberra cultural institution

It’s Canberra’s peak summertime city experience.

The aroma of exotic ethnic food wafts through City Walk and its surrounds as scores of food stalls serve up everything from gyros to gelato, and pizza to pancakes. The (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) drinks are flowing, the music’s going and there are performances aplenty, as ethnic groups share their wares with the world across several stages.

With more than 300 stalls, over 350 community groups, using scores of different languages, and up to 70 diplomatic missions all taking part, the National Multicultural Festival is one of the city’s busiest weekends year in year out and one of the nation’s largest celebrations of cultural diversity, drawing hundreds of thousands of people.

The festival also hosts a diverse range of information stalls, cultural displays and international and local products.

A celebration of Australia’s rich multiculturalism, it’s fitting the entertainment this year is led by a number of high-profile Indigenous Australians.

Performers Christine Anu and Isaiah Firebrace will headline the 2019 National Multicultural Festival, while celebrity chef Mark Olive will entertain crowds with his lively cooking demonstrations.

“The National Multicultural Festival is very excited to have such high profile Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to headline one of Canberra’s premier events,” Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Chris Steel says.

The three celebrities will highlight performances across the Festival weekend, which will be held between Friday 15 and Sunday 17 February.

David Wong is founder and troupe leader of Canberra’s Prosperous Mountain Dragon and Lion Dance (PMDLD).

His troupe will be performing extensively throughout the National Multicultural Festival, as they do every year.

Indigenous Australian performers Christine Anu (left) and Isaiah Firebrace (centre), and celebrity chef Mark Olive (right) will entertain crowds at this year’s National Multicultural Festival in the Canberra CBD, 15-17 February. Getty.

A festival highlight for many, PMDLD will bring their brand of authentic cultural performance to the launch, and will also perform on the Saturday afternoon, at the China Village launch on Saturday evening, and then at the China Village over the whole of Sunday.

Wong tells Canberra Weekly the festival is an annual highlight for the troupe.

“It’s huge for us in terms of playing for a crowd, but also in terms of interactions with the various parts of the community … it brings us into parts of the Canberra community that we would never otherwise go to.

“We get so much exposure into a broad range of performances that it gives us a sense of adventure too while doing something we love.”

He says they enjoy interactions with attendees from all walks of life over the course of the festival.

“There’s a lot of officials who greet us and talk to us too; there’s local politicians, ambassadors from various countries, and the community leaders across the different community groups who love to talk to us and get to know us.

“Then there’s the beautiful families who come in and want to get to know about us and what we do … It’s a massive cross-section of the community we love working with,” he says.

Their performances at the National Multicultural Festival will coincide with Lunar New Year celebrations and be inspired by the Year of the Pig.

“A part of the Chinese character [for pig] uses the word house or home, so a lot of the themes are around home and coming back home,” Wong says.

The National Multicultural Festival will run on 15-17 February in the CBD. For more information, visit multiculturalfestival.com.au

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