In an effort to push myself out of my comfort zone, I try to say yes to opportunities that put me in unfamiliar and challenging situations. One of these opportunities came to fruition a few weeks ago at Silo Park with me performing in a Burundian dance group to showcase Iwacu (our place).
Since my first performance for Ambassadors, I couldn’t pass up another event, especially one closer to home and my heart. I also couldn’t say no to someone as passionate and vibrant as my friend and the event organiser Nadine. Her vision for Iwacu was to showcase the authentic culture, heritage and beauty of our ancestral home Burundi.
My main motivation for being apart of this event was to embrace my cultural roots and expand my knowledge and understanding of my culture. I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that something such as this, which is so invaluable, is lacking in my community.This is something that continues to make me frustrated, especially because so many Burundians didn’t want to be a part of this particular event. I know if I was asked to participate in these events 5 (or so) years ago I would have declined out of complete fear and ignorance. I’m thankful now that I’ve grown and am now more educated, and also had the opportunity to be a part of and learn from events such as Ambassadors and Iwacu.
When it came to recruiting volunteers, I had different expectations for others that I asked, or knew had been asked as they had performed in events similar to this in the past. I can say that I wasn’t surprised by their responses or attitudes towards the event, but I won’t even get started on how weak the excuses were. It’s one thing to say your busy, but another to feign disinterest of your culture and community.
I’m constantly comparing my community with others who celebrate their history and culture with every opportunity they get. Whether it be through performance or simply carrying something that is symbolic of their culture with them at all times. I observe them all with much awe, gratitude and some envy. Awe at the rich meaning and value that their heritage presents, gratitude for being able to experience and learn from them and feeling envious that I/we cannot do the same.
It’s somewhat ironic that Iwacu took place on the weekend of the Chinese Lantern Festival celebrating the Chinese New Year. This is one of Auckland’s, if not New Zealand’s, largest cultural celebrations in terms of attendance. I cannot even begin to compare the two, except for the fact that the Chinese community in New Zealand seems to have really got it together.
I’m extremely thankful that despite the struggles and setbacks, Iwacu managed to come together and happen. It was really nice to see people take time out of their weekend to enjoy the talent and performances. Without these incredible and open minded individuals and family that came through, Iwacu would not have had much impact or truly fulfilled its intended purpose. I really hope this is only the beginning of more events like this. The value of it is not so recognised, but that doesn’t mean it’s not needed, or can be done.
Photos taken by Mary-Anna Thomson