Indian culture in the spotlight at popular social event at Sioux Lookout Public Library
Tim Brody - Editor
Members of the community were invited to the Sioux Lookout Public Library (SLPL) on May 24 to experience a taste of Indian culture, including henna tattooing, relaxing tea, and a cultural presentation.
Sioux Lookout Public Library CEO & Chief Librarian Shawn Bethke said the event was incredibly successful with approximately 300 people attending and 100 henna tattoos being done. “It is nice to see the tattoos now around town and see the tremendous response to the photos on our Facebook page. Lots of positive feedback has been pouring in and lots of demand for more events of this type being done at the library,” he shared.
“This event originated from my past experiences running and co-ordinating large multicultural events. I have previously co-ordinated large multicultural festivals bringing together new cultures that have moved recently to an area. In my case this was primarily Indian University students. As we were noticing a prominent and growing South Asian community in Sioux Lookout, I approached Nancy (McCord, SLPL Assistant Librarian) with the idea to have a welcoming event at the library. As I knew from previous events that henna tattooing and tea were huge draws to cultural festivals, I asked Nancy to reach out to the Facebook group The Desis of Sioux Lookout, a newly launched group of which Rony (Chakraborty, Municipal Manager of Recreation, Parks and Culture) and and Komal (Vijay Shah, Municipal Development Services Administrative Assistant) were members. The response was overwhelming with people who wanted to contribute! We had previous relationships established at the library with Komal and Rony through the Municipality and it seemed a natural fit to ask them to take part and help co-ordinate the members we didn’t know. I knew from previous experience that there would be members of the community that we didn’t know yet who could do henna tattoos and luckily this proved to be the case. We held a planning meeting and Rony was able to pledge to us support from the municipality in terms of chairs, tables, music, and a financial donation. Komal and others pledged to do henna tattooing and come wearing their beautiful traditional dresses. We also met Aaliyah who did the cultural presentation. Aaliyah is an amazing 12-year-old girl with her own YouTube channel who was able to create that fantastic presentation in just a short time. That is a young lady who is going places!”
Bethke added, “As I had previously met the guys from the Sunset Inn, Karamjeet Singh, Rohit Gupta and Chef Siddharth when they had come to the library the day Chef Sid arrived by train from London, Ontario. They had seen the bucket list challenge (which the library ran earlier this year) and Komal participating and were intrigued by what they could do here in Sioux Lookout. I thought it would be a possibility to bring them on as supportive partners. I can say they went above and beyond in their support for this event! The Sunset Inn committed to providing us with hot food appetizers, chai, water bottles, decorations and a $200 cash donation to cover costs. I cannot say enough about these guys and the support of the Sunset Inn for the event and for the library. They made sure everything came together smoothly including getting the necessary food permit. We are talking about more events and more support for the library from this amazing crew... Karam and the guys are so community focused and helpful they have brought a lot to the Sioux Lookout community already and I hope the community in turn supports their business and events.”
Bethke said the event introduced the growing South Asian (Indian) community to Sioux Lookout and vice-versa; and provided an opportunity for cultural learning at the library. “It is important to have a large welcoming event to give the community the opportunity to learn about a beautiful culture and to make introductions, connections and friendships as we move forward together. It was also done to have fun! We have had a lack of big celebratory community events in the last few years, and I think people are ready to get out and about again and see each other in this kind of way. A lot of new friendships were made through this event. We have also learned at the library that many people moved to Sioux Lookout during the pandemic and have never had the chance to meet many people. We have had many people at the library who have seen the events we have been doing on Facebook coming in to say they have been here for a while and were now looking to start meeting and socializing and what could the library do for them. This was an excellent way to show the community that it is safe and fun now to get out again and have fun face to face.”
“We decided to plan the event and see if there is any henna artist in town. There were quite a few people who wanted to volunteer for henna (Raman, Nazia, Daisy, Tanveer, Vishwa, Diksha, Jhanvi, Mausam, and Komal)” Vijay Shah added. “Many people wore beautiful traditional dress during the event, which helps the community to understand the enriched culture of India. I am very much thankful for all the henna artists who put their time in the event to make it successful. Being an Indian, seeing Canadian people learning, welcoming and accepting the other culture is a proud moment,” she said.
“Working with the Development Services department with the Municipality, I want newcomers to connect to the local people. After the planning was done, I connected to Economic Development Officer Jennifer Esposito, as her project is to attract newcomers into the town, so the posters (for the event) were posted on the Municipality of Sioux Lookout social media as well.”
“We want to thank the Sunset Inn - Karamjeet Singh, Rohit Gupta, and Chef Siddharth Sinha, The Municipality of Sioux Lookout Recreation and Culture Department Rony Chakraborty, Komal Vijay Shah and the Desis of Sioux Lookout,” Bethke said, adding he wished to thank everyone who helped out with the event.
Bethke said he and McCord are already talking about doing more cultural events featuring Indian culture and other cultures within Sioux Lookout. Bethke said, “There is a strong demand for more events based on feedback we have received so far. We will be planning smaller learning opportunities at the library such as henna or sari wrapping workshops. Keep an eye on the library Facebook page!”