On Sept. 9, the Bangladeshi Undergraduate Student Federation at the University of Saskatchewan will co-host an artistic event dedicated to the work of Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. The event will talk about identity and the philosophical teachings of the poet as a way to engage in reconciliation in light of Canada 150.
The event will celebrate Tagore with various art mediums that are meant to elicit personal reflection about the navigation of cultural identities in a multicultural country. In addition, the organizers hope to share the Bengali culture and promote ideas of peacebuilding in the campus community.
Jebunnessa Chapola, a fourth-year women’s, gender and sexualities PhD student and organizer of the event, discusses why she believes it is important to highlight the work of an international scholar and share it with Canadian audiences.
“As an immigrant, we have come here in a new land and every day all of us are struggling to fit into this new society and new culture,” Chapola said. “So at this event, basically, we are trying to understand how we can share or how we can make a cultural bridge between Canadian culture, Indigenous culture and immigrant culture.”
Tagore is remembered for his contributions to the Bengali culture in writing, music and fine arts, but he was also influential for promoting the philosophies of universalism and humanism. Following Tagore’s visit to Vancouver in 1929, he wrote a poem called “Call to Canada,” which inspired this event.
The event will be held at 7 p.m. at Quance Theatre in the Education Building. There is no admission cost, and light refreshments will be served. The event is being facilitated with the help of various groups, such as the newly founded Prairie Tagore Society and the College of Arts and Science.
Pritam Sen, a final-year student in mechanical engineering and president of BUSF, explains that he finds a connection to his roots through studying Tagore’s work, even though a century has passed from the time they were written.
“If you think about his writing, mainly his short stories, those are very influential. They describe back then, at his time, how it was in Bengal,” Sen said. “I have learned a lot about my culture and heritage itself, and also, not just that. His writing actually tells you how to be a better human.”
While Tagore’s poems and songs will be in Bengali, there will be English subtitles provided on screen when available. The organizers report that this event is accessible for all students, because the displays of artistic expression can be enjoyed and interpreted even without an understanding of Bengali or prior knowledge of Tagore’s work.
Asit Sarkar, a retired professor from the Edwards School of Business and the organizer of the event, explains that the last segment of the event is dedicated to leaving a legacy and will feature David Parkinson, a faculty member in the department of English, who will give an address about reconciliation and peacebuilding in Canada.
“The final segment is asking us a question,” Sarkar said. “What would people think of us 50 years from now, when Canada celebrates its bicentennial? What legacy are we going to leave?”
Sarkar emphasizes the need for students to be active in this discussion, as they will be the ones shaping the future of multiculturalism and reconciliation in Canada. Sen explains that he values learning more about his own culture, and he can also connect the themes back to Canada. He explains that this event is not only for those students in the Bengali community.
“The theme of the event includes culture and heritage, multiculturalism, universalism and humanism, and those are things … [that] matter if you are Bengali or from any other origin. Those are all things we should take to heart and as a Canadian especially,” Sen said. “If you are living in Canada, these are very important things, because it is what this country is built on.
Graphic: Lesia Karalash | Graphics Editor