A progressive and dynamic non-profit organization saw the light almost three years ago in Moncton: Woven Cultures Tissées. Since then, the group has garnered a lot of attention, including recognition by the YMCA Greater Moncton in the form of the 2018 Peace Medallion and being named one of that year’s stars by Radio Canada Acadie.
This grassroots bilingual association was founded in late 2017 by a group of friends from various countries who had come to Canada from abroad. The foundation of the organization was prompted by the four friends’ experiences of multiculturalism, racism and exclusion in New Brunswick.
From Benin, Jabbar Lawani is one of these volunteers who came to Canada at 19 years old to study at Université de Moncton. Another founder, Alfred Bessawa, for his part, is from Cameroon. Having met while studying at the New Brunswick Community College in Moncton, Lawani and Bessawa now run a unique clothing company called Design from Africa.
A pair of sisters rounds out the team. Khairunnisa (Inda) Intiar and Kieutri Aulia (Wenda) Intiar grew up in seven different countries. Inda Intiar studied International Relations and Journalism at St. Thomas University (STU) and now writes for Huddle. Wenda Intiar is also a STU graduate and is employed as a settlement counselor at the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area. The sisters are originally from Indonesia and Wenda Intiar chooses to wear a hijab.
According to the group’s social media, Woven Cultures delivers “workshops for children and youth so they can observe, understand and appreciate the diversity around them and discuss ways to be more inclusive in their communities.”
Along with these live presentations and interactive activities –held mostly in South-Eastern New Brunswick, the group has also uploaded a series of videos in French and English about stereotypes and cultural adaptation, have organized peace café conversations online and language lounges for people in Moncton.
A recent event, called #ForYouthByYouth, should have been held in early April but had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. The event included performances, art, entrepreneurship, leadership training and volunteer opportunities.
Indefatigable despite social distancing, the group has reoriented its activities and recently chose to spotlight young artists from diverse backgrounds in the province, many of whom had registered for the April event.
According to Inda Intiar, Woven Culture decided to “take the young artists component, move it online for more in depth discussions because they have very interesting stories, and expand the reach to the whole province instead of just Moncton area.“
Intiar and her team of volunteers asked artists to self-identify for the April event but says that a diversity is vital: “We look for artists that have a story related to cultural diversity, and bonus if they also explore issues like mental health, racism etc. in their own ways (…) we want to focus on youth from underrepresented communities (…) folks in the majority who are also helping promote cross-cultural friendships. Other than that, they just have to be 15-30 years old, have original work to share, and be based in New Brunswick.”
The NB Media Co-op is pleased to celebrate Woven Cultures Tissées’s work and bring this series of young artist talks to our readers.
Sophie M. Lavoie is an editorial board member and writer on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.