Community event shares cultural diversity

Taking part in the Alexandra South Asian Festival on Saturday are (from left) Southland Migrant...
Taking part in the Alexandra South Asian Festival on Saturday are (from left) Southland Migrant Walking Together Organisation director Himani Galbraith, Jhalak Chadha, of Cromwell, National Party Southland MP Joseph Mooney, Welcoming Communities officer Deborah Beange, Central Otago District Council staff member Manisha Chadha and Arasan NZ Trust event organiser Carthika Luxmanan. PHOTO: ASPEN BRUCE
The Alexandra South Asian Cultural Festival shone a spotlight on the diverse cultures living within isolated communities.

Many locals with connections to South Asian countries gathered at Alexandra Community Centre on Saturday to celebrate and showcase the diversity within the community.

Hosted by Arasan NZ Trust in partnership with Welcoming Communities and the Central Otago Regional Council, the event included performances, food and fashion shows.

Arasan NZ Trust event organiser Carthika Luxmanan said the day was about exposing Alexandra residents to South Asian cultures.

"I think it’s safe to say it’s the very first time something like this has happened. It’s exciting to see all the culture being exposed ... and to have a really vibrant event," Ms Luxmanan said.

They were interested in making the event an annual celebration.

"This is the first of many events to hopefully come. From the feedback so far, everyone’s very excited and looking forward to participating ... So it’s an opportunity for us to integrate with the local community and [learn] from each other, promoting diversity, understanding and friendship," Ms Luxmanan said.

Dunedin-based cancer researcher Dr Lux Selvanesan helped set up the event in the South Island.

He said they decided to invite local schools to be involved in the day through a poster competition.

"It was for any school kids, as individuals or as a team, to then research and create a poster of any South Asian culture [or cultures]," he said.

After pupils submitted, a panel of judges from Arasan NZ Trust and the council chose the first, second and third place posters.

"We put the message out there and all the posters seen on the walls [at the event] are from school kids that designed them. The wonderful thing was these youth really took initiative to go and research about these cultures and countries, and to create beautiful posters," Mr Selvanesan said.

The competition was won by Eddie Fenton, who received $400. Max Smith ($200) was second and Charlotte Taylor ($100) third.

Charlotte said she was initially drawn to Nepal.

"But then I found out about this train in Sri Lanka and thought it was really cool and changed my poster to that," Charlotte said.

Max chose Bangladesh and created a simple design.

"The middle of it, where the red circle [is] meant to be, symbolises the river delta because they have the largest river delta in the world. They’re also known for large mountains and roaming tigers," Max said.