Mosaic South Asian Heritage Festival to draw 70 000 Attendees

Celebration Square isn't packed with people gathering to listen to a diverse and eclectic mix of local and international South Asian artists just yet, but it will be very soon.

The Canadian Community Arts Initiative (CCAI), founded by Asma Mahmood and Arshad Mahmood in 2005, is presenting its 9th annual TD Mosaic South Asian Heritage Festival in and around City Centre as we speak. The free festival, which is expected to draw about 70,000 attendees, also features the Mississauga South Asian International Film Festival (MISAFF) and Rock the Coliseum, an independent two-day music festival.

So, why does this massive festival -- one complete with films, music, art exhibits, shopping, food and even pottery classes for kids -- call Mississauga home?

"We live here and there's no other South Asian event that can involve all the communities together," says CCAI founder Asma Mahmood. "[The festival is designed] to create, support and promote artistic activities in Mississauga, Ontario and Canada."

And while the festival primarily features artists who are either from South Asia or of South Asian descent, Mahmood says that about 45 per cent of attendees come from non-South Asian cultures. Also, the attendees aren't only multi-cultural -- many also travel far and wide to attend the 10-day event.

"We bring in people from outside of Ontario," she says. "People from as far away as Montreal come in. [People who travel] also make use of hotels and other facilities in Mississauga. People travel from the U.S. to see the concerts. It's a complete experience."

Unfortunately, if you're only hearing about this massive cross-cultural arts celebration now, you have missed MISAFF. The film festival, which took place at Landmark Cinemas (formerly Empire Cinemas) at Square One, ran from Aug 7 - 10 and featured such films as Anima State (filmed by British-Pakistani director Hammad Khan), Gangs of Tooting Broadway (made by Indian filmmaker Devanand Shanmungam, Lakshmi (made by Indian director Nagesh Kukunoor), Meet the Patels (a documentary made by Indian-American filmmaker Geeta Patel and more.

MISAFF closed on Sunday, Aug 10 with a slightly late screening (festival director Arshad Khan called it "Indian Standard Time") of Meet the Patels, a humorous documentary about Ravi Patel's (the director's brother) struggle to reconcile he and his parent's cultural expectations of love and marriage with his troubled on/off again relationship with a Caucasian American woman. The film, which initially premiered at Hot Docs in April in Toronto, is as much a light-hearted exploration of love and culture as it is of family, struggle, breaking tradition and struggling to find (and maintain) love.

Mosaic doesn't just celebrate music and movies. The festival also has literary, fashion and visual arts components.

On Aug 14, the Punjabi-Urdu-Hindi Mosaic Mushhaira poetry recital will take place at the Rogers Theatre in the Living Arts Centre at 7 pm. It will feature work by Irfan Sattar, Rasheed Nadeem, Meena Chopra and many more.

On Saturday, Aug 16, Celebration Square wanderers can check out bridal and clothing fashion shows. They can also browse jewellery, makeup, and hairstyles designed by local talent.

On the visual arts side, Mosaic kicked off the Stroke of Masters art exhibit at the Promenade Gallery on Lakeshore near Cawthra on Monday. The exhibit, which will run until Sept. 3, has been curated by CCAI founder Asma Mahmood and festival director Anu Vittal. The colourful show features both for sale and private collection pieces created by such artists as MF Husain, Jamini Roy, Jastin Das, Manjit Bawa and more.

Visual arts aficionados can also see famous Pakistani artist Rashid Rana on Wednesday, Aug. 13 at the Mississauga Civic Centre at 7 pm.

Locals are also welcome to check out the The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 at the Art Gallery of Mississauga. While this exhibition is not a Mosaic presentation, it runs until Oct. 19 and more then fits the South Asian theme!

For all the South Asian (and non-South Asian) music fans out there, Celebration Square's main stage will be the site of two days of eclectic and energetic performances by both local and international dancers and musicians. Some high-profile performers set to take stage on Aug. 15 and 16 include Indian songstress Rekha Bhardwaj, global fusion and electronica artist Karsh Kale, Canadian singer Jonita Gandhi, South Asian, Illinois-based all-male A Cappella group Chai Town, West Indian crossover group Destiny, Bharatanatyam dancer Taala and more.

From 4 pm to 11 pm on Aug. 15 and 16, the main stage will be home to Mosaic's trademark Rock the Coliseum festival. The concert, which features independent artists, will see performances by Aukland, Shyann, Ballroom Babies, Stone River, Smoke Breaks and more.

"We have 280 artists participating [in the festival] this year," says Mahmood. "We have local artists from all over and also artists from the UK, the U.S., Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and more. The bulk of our artists are local artists. Local artists are our first priority."

For all you foodies out there, there will be more than enough grub to satisfy your myriad South Asian cravings. Mahmood says there will be 12 food vendors (all at Celebration Square) serving up various South Asian dishes. Also on tap for the next few days are shopping opportunities for sari and South Asian accessory seekers, children's workshops and gardening workshops. Festival organizers have also partnered with the Mississauga Food Bank, so attendees are welcome to bring non-perishable food items to donate.

For more information, including schedules, check out http://www.cre8iv80studio.com/index.asp

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