Winnipeg is a relatively small Canadian city of 705,000 residents in the metropolitan area, and just under 800,000 if you include the surrounding region. But it is very big on culture. There are many festivals and multi-cultural events that celebrate the culturally diverse faces of Manitoba’s capital that will warm your heart and lift your spirit–at any time of year. Unfortunately, 2020 and 2021 have been very different due to COVID-19 and all its variants of concern. So the in-person version of all the major cultural events have been postponed and some are holding mini-offerings online.
As a subscriber to the Manitoba Theatre Centre‘s mainstage in Winnipeg for many years, I’ve seen many terrific plays (plus a few not so enjoyable performances) at this iconic venue. Several years ago, I switched my allegiance to the Prairie Theatre Exchange in the heart of Winnipeg as my theatre of choice, as I love the more intimate and informal venue, the lower tickets prices, free indoor parking, and other subscriber perks such as the Wine Wednesdays that community-based theatre brings. Unfortunately, there is no live theatre for the foreseeable future due to COVID. But there have been some performances offered online. There have also been other online options to enjoy, such as this year’s mini Winnipeg Folk Festival to be held August 13-15, 2021 in Birds Hill Park if the virus situation doesn’t get out of control.
The Manito Ahbee festival celebrates the aboriginal culture that is prevalent in Manitoba. This multi-day event is normally held at various venues throughout downtown Winnipeg. This year, Manito Ahbee is being held entirely online. The International Pow-wow is the highlight of the event, where you can see aboriginal musicians and dancers from around the world participating in various competitions. In the virtual version of the Pow-wow–which runs May 21-24, 2021, dancers dazzle and inspire us from their own home territories, versus all being in the same venue. Do check it out!
In addition to First Nations cultures, more than 40 other cultures are celebrated at Folklorama, a multi-cultural event that was launched in 1969. Folklorama is the largest and longest-running multi-cultural festival of its kind in the world, and is held the first two weeks of August every summer. August, 2019, marked the 50th Anniversary celebrations of Folklorama. It’s unfortunate that the in-person multi-venue offerings have been cancelled for 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, but Folklorama has come up with some creative options to satisfy our hunger for cultural creations. “Folklorama At Home” enables you to bring catered cultural events to your home or small venue. There are also Folklorama at Work, School, and Play options to investigate. Do visit the website for the creative options being offered during these difficult times.
Combine any of these cultural highlights in Winnipeg with a visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and you will develop a keen sense for why this Prairie city is so proud of its multi-cultural roots. The museum is an architectural wonder, and is the first national museum in Canada located outside of the capital region of Ottawa/Gatineau. It is also the only museum in the world devoted to global human rights and is now open again to the public with COVID-friendly practices.
The newest addition to the Winnipeg cultural scene is Qaumajuq–the new Inuit Art Centre located adjacent to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The two galleries combined offer 185,000 square feet of viewing space. Qaumajuq showcases the largest collection of Inuit art in the world and opened to the public on April 7, 2021.
I’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit Qaumajuq, but have watched several online presentations previewing it to the world and can’t wait to check it out in person. Qaumajuq–pronounced “low-ma-yourk” means “It is bright, it is lit” in the Inuktitut language of the Inuit people who have inhabited Canada’s northern territories for thousands of years. If you’d like to read more about Winnipeg and some of the highlights to plan your visit, please check out this post, as it lists five of my favourite things about my hometown.