Showcase of region's many cultures

Changing face of Marlborough

Last updated 12:06 03/03/2014

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Marlborough's cultural melting pot displayed its colour and vitality at the ninth annual Multicultural Festival in Blenheim.

Thirty-one performers from around the globe donned traditional costumes to showcase music and dance while festival-goers enjoyed the entertainment and the many different cuisines on offer.

The packed programme of events had something for everyone, from Thai boxing to Pacific island dance and Scottish highland music to Kiwi rock.

Footfall was steady throughout the day and it is estimated the event surpassed last year's crowd of 4000 people.

Marlborough migrant services manager and festival organiser Margaret Western said the festival marked the lead-up to Race Relations Day on March 21 and was a great celebration of Marlborough's ethnic diversity.

"Until recently Marlborough was on the country's least ethnically diverse regions. That has changed significantly," she said. "Many nationalities are coming to Marlborough to work in viticulture and because the lifestyle here is fantastic. We are inclusive and we are growing multiculturally.

"Belonging and feeling connected is essential for a healthy society. The large crowd is evidence of the community support in Marlborough. We are enriched by the cultures that are now the face of Marlborough."

Marlborough Migrant Centre is engaged with 47 nationalities offering education and an advocacy services to support the successful resettlement of migrants.

Stallholder Bu Nga, from Thailand, came to New Zealand eight years ago and has now settled in Blenheim with her husband and son after gaining permanent residency.

She said dealing with the weather was a challenge when she relocated.

"Initially it was difficult. I came in the summer on a day that was 18 degrees. For me that felt cold."

She studied English at a language school in Nelson then settled in Blenheim to work in viticulture.

"Studying English was difficult because I learned from a text book and people in New Zealand don't talk like that."

She said her ethnicity had helped her start a successful Asian food business in Blenheim.

"I know who I am. I am not 100 per cent Kiwi. I still have my cultural roots in Thailand. I think I have a good balance and enjoy the best parts of both countries."

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- The Marlborough Express


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