Sakihiwe Festival celebrates culture in inner city communities

Central Park transformed into a hub for Indigenous culture on Sunday afternoon as part of this year’s Sakihiwe Festival. The free event brings music, art, fashion and heritage to inner city communities.

“What we’re trying to do is help Indigenous and newcomer families in these neighbourhoods access the arts so they can have all the same benefits and all the same joy in their lives as people from other parts of the city,” festival director Alan Greyeyes told CTV News.

Sakihiwe, which means ‘to love’ in Cree, kicked off Friday night at the Burton Cummings Theatre with performances by Northside Baby and Joey Stylez. On Saturday, the festival set up at the Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre before Sunday’s takeover of Central Park.

“There is a mix of Indigenous and newcomer families, and I think it’s really important for us to share our cultures,” Greyeyes explained. “Show each other the ties that bind us together and challenge stereotypes together. And I think the more communities get together, the safe communities become.”

Sunday’s festivities included an array of performances by First Nation, Metis, Inuit and Indigenous artists.

“We serve as a stepping stone or a launch pad for Indigenous artists in Canada and give them their first performance opportunities,” Greyeyes said.

He said the mentorship extends beyond stage time as festival staff teach artists about the business side of the music industry.

“By teaching them these basics, the idea is to help them make music their full-time career.”

Sakihiwe also included an Indigenous marketplace, free barbeque and activity stations for kids.

“We really want kids to participate in the arts, and I’m a firm believer the arts help improve your mental health,” Greyeyes explained. “And so, for these kids to get access, I think, is super important.”

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