October 9 Friday Night Live program at Canada’s largest Royal Ontario Museum was special in many ways. Themed “Thanks Canada!” a select group of Passages Canada speakers engaged the museum patrons with their personal stories of identity, heritage and immigration between 8-10 p.m. during the lively night programming that stretched from 7 until midnight. These ‘roaming storytellers,” who each had a unique story of arriving in Canada, interacted with guests and exchanged tales about their place in Canada’s rich diversity, and the role they share in building understanding and respect for Canada’s shared history and values.
Stationed mainly on level 3 in a space called Centre Block, currently occupied by the exhibit Generations—a photo-based exhibition featuring the work of contemporary artist Annu Palakunnathu Matthew—these storytellers came from native Canadian, Indian, African, and Vietnamese backgrounds.
The rich cultural dialogues between storytellers and museum attendees were facilitated by a name badge around the speakers’ neck and a paddle board in their hands with a catchy phrase of “Hear My Story” that prompted the audience’s curiosity. The conversations lasted anywhere between 5-10 minutes with individuals or small groups, and speakers fielded a wide array of questions on their journey to Canadian shores.
The lively programming at the museum also featured drinks, food and live music, giving the guests a memorable opportunity to socialize in a vibrant ambience surrounded by history. This event was a truly creative way of kicking off the keenly awaited holiday celebrations marking Thanksgiving.
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.