Connecting Cultures

What do pictures of people’s houses, art workshops, guest speakers and sandwiches have in common with each other and the concept of multiculturalism?

Yukon College hopes to answer this question—and spark many more—with its Yukon Cultures Connect Project.

The project aims to build bridges among different cultural groups, foster public discussion about diversity and help institutions respond to a “new” Whitehorse with a changing mix of cultures, ethnicities and languages.

The two-year series of public events, conversations and art-based workshops about the Yukon’s unique mix of cultures is coordinated through the college with funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

“We’re working with a team of people from ‘intercultural hubs’ in our city,” explains coordinator MitchMiyagawa.

That team includes Kwanlin Dun First Nation, l’Association franco-yukonnaise, Multicultural Centre of the Yukon, Yukon Arts Centre, the Canadian Filipino Association of the Yukon, the Japanese-Canadian Association of Yukon and the Yukon African Caribbean Association.”

Miyagawa says the project is still in its early planning stages, and ideas are welcome.

“As far as I know we’ve never had a way to bring all the major cultural groups together. Not just newcomers, but First Nations and francophones,” he says.

“Even though we’re very accepting here in the Yukon, we need to move from acceptance of difference to a celebration of it. This project will also open people up to talking about our shared values.”

The playwright and filmmaker adds, with a smile, “And we’ll have fun doing it!”

Miyagawa’s own mixed-race background made the project particularly appealing to him.

“I grew up as Canada first formally embraced the idea of multiculturalism. As a writer, I’ve explored ideas around identity and race. In fact, my latest creative project is about my Japanese dad and my Chinese and Cree step-parents. So it’s in my blood.”

This isn’t the only reason the project spoke to him, however.

“I’m excited about the project because it’s creative and about a topic I’m passionate about. But I’m also excited to be working at the college. The college is a diversity hotspot. Visit the residence there and you’ll find people from all sorts of backgrounds.”

When it comes to bringing the project to life, Miyagawa stresses the role of the larger community.

“I see my role as bringing people together and building bridges between communities.”

This leads back to sandwiches and photos of private homes.

Yukon Cultures Connect will host its official launch on Friday, March 30 from 5:30 p.m. until midnight in the college cafeteria, with an event dubbed the Mixer.

Miyagawa has involved local artists, photographers and designers to transform the cafeteria into an art installation “house” in a unique version of a “house party”.

Images of various local homes will be projected onto the walls of the installation to celebrate how people’s houses reflect their identity and culture.

The art decorating the “house” comes from art classes at Porter Creek Secondary School who worked with artists involved in Yukon Cultures Connect to create self-portraits reflecting their culture and background.

Fir younger participants, the installation will include a playroom, complete with a fort.

The event will also feature a fusion sandwich competition. Attendees will be able to fuse their own sandwiches together using ingredients and fillings from different cultures—with prizes for the best concoctions.

The schedule also includes interactive experiences with many of the territory’s cultural groups, karaoke, a dance and a bar.

“It will be fun to mix up cultures,” Miyagawa promises. “It’s going to create an intimate, open space to talk about cultural differences and where we all come from—a chance to ask questions and talk.”

Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].

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