New Zealand World

Festival to bring Punjabis and Palmerston North together

Tejdeep Singh performs with an Aara, a flexible sword of India, at last year's Palmy Punjabi Festival.

Palmerston North’s Sikh Society is hoping to bring together more than 5000 people at its annual Palmy Punjabi Festival in Te Marae o Hine/The Square on October 31.

With soccer, cricket, food, drinks, performances and a bouncy castle, the society’s president Karl Gill said the day will show the city what it’s all about and break down the barriers between cultures.

Palmerston North's Sikh Society president Karl Gill hopes the festival will break down barriers between cultures.
Palmerston North’s Sikh Society president Karl Gill hopes the festival will break down barriers between cultures.

“It’s never discrimination, it’s just nervousness. They’re unsure,” Gill said.

Following the terrorist attacks against Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch, Herminder Gill realised her community needed to help others understand who they are.

“It was a wake up call for every one of us that we can’t just assume that everyone is comfortable, so we are creating accessibility for understanding our different culture.

“The festival allows us to be who we are and love who we are.”

Lovedeep Kaur agreed. Many people don’t know much – if anything – about Punjabis and their values.

Lovedeep Kaur and her son, Kanwar Shahbaz, 6, make sure he's looking his best.
Lovedeep Kaur and her son, Kanwar Shahbaz, 6, make sure he’s looking his best.

“They don’t know where we come from or what our culture is.

“When they see someone who is turban tied they think that’s odd, so we just want to create awareness about our community.”

But the day’s not just for others to learn about Punjabis and their culture, it’s for Gill’s community to meet and learn about their neighbours too.

“My people also need to learn about the too culture so it’s a two-way street.

Jaswant Singh fits a turban to Kieran Gill, 13.
Jaswant Singh fits a turban to Kieran Gill, 13.

“They come from a culture that’s very different. They’ve got to fight every day.

“When someone starts talking to them they realise suddenly they think of us as being equal.”

Talking and interacting with people from different cultures is the best way to break down barriers that separate communities, Gill said.

He hoped the event’s emphasis on interaction between cultures would bring a better understanding to the city about their Punjabi community.

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