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In 2018, with international students making up about half of the population of Cape Breton University, volunteers from the Cape Breton Island Centre for Immigration came up with an idea to help bridge and embrace the cultural differences between local Cape Bretoners and the many international newcomers living in the area—a multi-cultural festival called Hello Cape Breton: A World Gathering on an Island.

The free, one-day event was held at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion on the waterfront in downtown Sydney and featured an array of musical performances, including step and square dancing, Chinese Dragon dancing, belly dancing, and Bhangra dancing, as well as a variety of food vendors from around the world, models of international landmarks like Taj Mahal and an Egyptian pyramid, and replica houses from Africa and China.

As much as the festival was intended to bridge the gaps and embrace cultural differences, it was also aimed at introducing Cape Breton’s culture to newcomers with the hope that it would encourage some folks to stay after their studies were completed.

The inaugural Hello Cape Breton festival attracted a crowd of more than 2,000 people to the nine-hour event, which encouraged a similar program of multi-cultural performances, art, food, and pavilions representing China, India, Vietnam, Philippines, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe in 2019. Following the global shut-down of 2020, the annual Festival returned in 2021 and 2022 at Eltuek Arts Centre (also known for a time as The Convent).

This year, the popular multi-cultural festival is back where it all began. Hello Cape Breton | Kwe’ Unama’ki is set to paint the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion in a kaleidoscope of colours and cultures on Saturday, October 28 from 1-6pm. This year's event promises to be a spectacular celebration of diversity, uniting communities, and promoting cultural understanding.

As in previous years, Hello Cape Breton | Kwe’ Unama’ki will showcase performances that span the globe from traditional dances to contemporary music and will feature award-winning headliner Aquakultre, a versatile singer; rapper; composer; and storyteller who traces his roots from Halifax’s Uniacke Square through historic Africville, the American colonies, and back to west Africa.

The festival also offers the opportunity to embark on a culinary journey with an eclectic selection of international cuisines. From savory street food to sweet delicacies, your taste buds will travel the world through Ammy’s, Isla Kusina, Omma’s Korean Bar BQ and Grill, Bite of Asia, Lebanese Flower, Delicious African Kitchen, the Brew and Bubble, and H2Bistro.

A family-friendly event, there will be a dedicated Kids' Corner filled with interactive and educational activities designed to engage and entertain the youngest members of the community as well as a Children’s Fashion Show and a cultural pavilion to explore and learn about a variety of cultures.

“As we enter the fifth year of this beloved tradition, the Hello Cape Breton | Kwe’ Unama’ki Multicultural Festival continues to be a beacon of unity, showcasing the vibrancy and richness of Sydney's multicultural tapestry,” says Amandeep Bhatia, one of the event organizers and a Retention Facilitator in the International Student Settlement Program at the Cape Breton Island Centre for Immigration. “With each passing year, the festival has grown in scope and significance, becoming a must-attend event on the city's cultural calendar.”

Organized by Cape Breton Island Centre for Immigration, Hello Cape Breton | Kwe’ Unama’ki is open to all and is free of charge. Attendees are encouraged to come with an open heart and a desire to learn about, appreciate, and celebrate the diverse cultures that coexist in our community.

Don’t miss out on this extraordinary celebration at the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion on Saturday, October 28th. Although attendance is free, international food vendors do have a cost to purchase their food, so be sure to bring some cash if you want to try some of the amazing cuisines on offer.

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