ACT News

License article

National Multicultural Festival parades costume, customs and cuisine

It had everything from bagpipes to belly dancers and despite top temperatures reaching 32 degrees Canberrans came out in force on Saturday to enjoy costume, cuisine and customs from all over the world.

The 2016 National Multicultural Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary with 7.5 kilometres of bunting, 400 stalls representing 170 nationalities and 350 performance groups and 2500 performers.

For some it's an excuse to wrap their lips around a chip on a stick, but none can ignore the collective energy as people gathered to highlight diverse worldly wonders.

Obsidian Belly Dance Troupe had a crowd of hundreds captivated throughout its performance.

The group of five wore full skirts, colourful floral headwear and plenty of glistening jewellery as they danced barefooted, creating steps that gracefully shifted between traditional styles and modern burlesque.

Ludi Le-Gal, of Coombs, has danced as part of the troupe in six multicultural festivals.


Last year she was in the audience with her newborn son Etienne, but she said she was glad to be back on stage.

"This festival has such great energy," she said.

The fusion style of dance really spoke to the heart of multiculturalism, she said. "You keep the ancient tradition but there are new elements so there is something for everyone."

Botswana Cultural Group had Civic Square pumping through the afternoon at the African Village showcase.

The dancers, wearing percussive cuffs on their ankles, stomped and created a rich depth of sound that echoed out over London Circuit.

With the thoroughfare closed, a large procession featuring samba dancers, bag pipers, Chinese lion dancers and many more took centre stage.

Thousands enjoying the song and dance flooding through the streets were not short of appetite.

Abyssinian food vendor Senayt Kidane said it was the second time she had brought her distinctive dishes to the festival.

The most popular is the pumpkin and coconut chicken curry but the aromatic flavours come direct from Ethiopia with imported ingredients such as maize flour and chilli.

The former Canberran moved north to Queensland 18 years ago but said the enthusiasm about her dishes had her thinking about returning to open an ACT restaurant.

She said the character of the festival made it a joy to serve the 600 meals per sitting.

"I love it, Canberra is educated, people have an open mind, [they] don't ask what's this, what's that," she said.

"They're interested and enthusiastic to come and try."