Tracy Thomas | September 30, 2022
Today’s society emphasizes uniqueness. It starts at birth, with parents seeking names that make their children stand out. Famous examples include Blue Ivy, Saint, True, and X Æ A-12. In addition, ability grouping at schools, television shows, music, and fashion encourage individuality.
Although standing out has many benefits, social issues such as prejudice and discrimination can make standing out harmful to immigrants, whose names, accents, physical features, and perspectives already stick out. Therefore, for many immigrants, the goal is to fit in.
Fitting in takes a great deal of effort because it involves learning a new accent (or language) and a new way of thinking and doing things. As immigrants adopt a new culture, the old cultures slowly fade away.
“I am confident to say that I have lost a few of my connections with my heritage,” said Achelle Aquino, who relocated from the Philippines to Canada in 2011.
Since culture is an integral part of identity, immigrants lose some of their identity as they lose aspects of their culture. This loss of culture and identity can have adverse effects on these individuals. An article by Anne-Marie Alger, a psychotherapist in the United Kingdom, lists some of these effects, including generalized anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, a loss of self-confidence, social anxiety, isolation, and chronic loneliness.
To combat cultural and identity loss, many immigrant communities host events that help community members reconnect with their cultures. One such event in Edmonton is Kultura, a festival that celebrates Filipino culture.
“It’s like [the] Filipino fiesta back home,” said Mary-Rose Maximo, one of the musicians at this year’s festival. She added that the fiesta is done on a larger scale back home.
Maximo, who had a professional musical career in the Philippines, placed that aspect of her life on hold when she moved to Canada. “Back home, I performed [on] tv, but when I came here, it changed because we need to work,” she said. For Maximo, Kultura is a means to connect to more people from the community and retain the musical part of her identity.
Similarly, Michael Moya, an artist born and raised in Edmonton, considers it an honour to be invited by the Filipino art council to show his work at the event. “It’s nice to [have] the Filipino community promote our culture,” said Moya.
Another such event in Edmonton is the Irrecha festival, a thanksgiving event within the Ethiopian community. It is celebrated twice a year in Ethiopia, at the start of the planting season and the beginning of the harvest season.
Former president of the Edmonton youth association of Oromo, Nimona Gashe, sees this festival as a way to stay connected to Oroma and share Ethiopian culture with other members of Canadian society. “We do the same thing back home, so when we come here and do the same thing, we feel… home,” said Gashe.
To learn more about the Oromo community in Edmonton, click here. Also, find more information on Kultura here. Please visit the Alberta health services here if you or anyone you know requires mental health help.