From the 5-7 of August, the 50th anniversary of the Edmonton Heritage Festival in Alberta, Canada was held. “The Edmonton Heritage Festival 2023 is the world’s largest three-day festival celebrating multiculturalism. The festival allows patrons to experience the world’s cultures without leaving the city. Everything from live cultural music and dances to arts, crafts, and food.”
Against the backdrop of the Chinese government’s Uyghur genocide, which include acts of and cultural genocide, Uyghurs residing outside their homeland are steadfast in their efforts to safeguard their cultural heritage, historical legacy, and language, despite the challenges posed by their relatively small diaspora and constrained circumstances. Demonstrating a proactive approach, Uyghurs actively engage in various festivals and celebratory events in their respective locales, recognizing these occasions as opportune platforms to showcase their culture.
Last year marked the inaugural participation of Uyghurs in Canada’s Edmonton Heritage Festival, as they established a presence through the setup of a tent. This year, their engagement in the festival has been once again earnestly undertaken. For the second time, the Uyghur community in Alberta, Canada, erected a distinctive “Uyghur tent” at the renowned “Edmonton Heritage Festival,” a globally renowned event that has graced the province for half a century. The festival renders the occasion even more significant, with festivities commencing early in the day and extending well into the evening hours.
Mukerrem Kurban, President of the Alberta Uyghur Association and Women’s Outreach & Training Director at Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU), orchestrated the Uyghur community’s participation in the festival. Despite this being only the second year of their involvement, the Uyghur community secured a prominent position in the festival’s line-up, with their tents, cultural showcases, and artistic performances garnering noteworthy acclaim. The Uyghur families, enthusiastic in their efforts to introduce their heritage, graciously presented Uyghur cuisine to festivalgoers for the first time, a gesture that proved challenging to sustain given the remarkable influx of visitors to their tent.
While the festival centers on cultural expressions and artistic displays, the Uyghur presence is accentuated through the adornment of their tents in the colors of the East Turkistan flag, adorned with slogans inscribed in the Uyghur script and the national emblem. The space is further embellished with satin drapery, Uyghur carpets, an array of musical instruments, and a variety of vivid headwear. Festival attendees, donning T-shirts bearing the word “Uyghur” along with the East Turkistan flag, engage in an exuberant and playful manner, engaging with curious visitors, including children, and offering insights into their heritage.
Mukerrem’s recollection of the festival highlights the Uyghur community taking first place for their excellent cultural and artistic performances. Ramila, a dedicated Uyghur participant from Alberta, particularly underscores the widespread popularity of their Uyghur Laghman dish, while also emphasizing that the Uyghurs’ involvement in the festival is driven by their cultural legacy and a resolute response to the Uyghur people’s plight amid the ongoing genocide.
Notably, the Uyghurs’ expansion of their festival presence to include culinary offerings has garnered attention in the Edmonton local press, with the August 5 edition of Edmonton Magazine dedicating separate coverage to the Uyghur tent, underscoring their remarkable contribution to the event.