Tirgan festival aims to promote cross cultural dialogues and harbor an inviting space for cultural activities within the Iranian community; with hopes of providing a unique social engagement opportunity for second and third generation of immigrants. Golnoush Hassanpour has been living in Canada since the age of eleven and has been part of the Tirgan family for four years. Her role as part of the PR team pertains to expansion of Tirgan’s reach and interconnectedness with other active groups and organizations. By clicking here you can view the great results of the PR-affiliate team’s work which has had quite an impact on the expansion of Tirgan’s activities and has created valuable links within various associations in the Iranian diaspora. In the hectic and busy days of planning leading up to the 5th Tirgan festival we sit down with Golnoush to talk about the involvement of second and third generation of Iranian immigrants with Tirgan.
How does Tirgan collaborate with other organizations and institutions? Tell us about the expansion of Tirgan’s concept and experiences as well as the emergence of similar organizations and festivals.
Over the last few years, the Iranian diaspora communities and cultural organizations have become more active and well connected. Tirgan itself makes a concerted effort to network and connect with Iranian and non-Iranian organizations worldwide through its affiliate programs. These connections help us reach out to a wider audience, learn from the expertise of other organizations, and lend support to strengthen Iranian communities everywhere. This past year, Tirgan played an essential supportive role in the development of another Iranian festival namely Tabestoon in Calgary, Alberta. Tabestoon Festival is the largest Iranian art and culture festival in Western Canada. This organization benefited from adopting the Tirgan model to structure its crew and programming. We also work closely with our affiliates in the U.S. such as Farhang Foundation, Iranian Alliances Across Borders, and Diaspora Art Connections. A number of affiliates directly contribute to logistics and operations at Tirgan.
How is the relationship between Tirgan and second and third generation Iranian-Canadians? What causes lead to the rift amongst the later generations and the language and culture of their homeland?
Tirgan attracts some volunteers who are second generation and even some who are of mixed heritage, though they are far fewer than we would like to see.We realize that for the Iranian community to thrive in Toronto and Canada as a whole, we need the participation of those who have grown up in this country. Language barriers, overhaul of identity, as well as disconnect with the broader Iranian community lead to the lack of participation in the second and third generation youth. A child who spends their formative years growing up in Canada invariably adapts to the mainstream values, world views, and language. They might feel a culture gap with their parents and community who have a stronger Iranian identity, and tend to turn away from participating in social and cultural events. In their teenage years, youth want to fit in and engage in the same pastimes and hobbies as their Canadian peers. Hence taking part in Iranian cultural activities may not be as relevant to them. In addition, when youth lose their language skills they are coyer and less confident to participate in Iranian events where language skills are deemed a necessity. This is unfortunate because if we lose the second generation during their formative years, it will be much more difficult to get them back later.
What are the most significant challenges that we face in creating cultural links with the younger Iranian-Canadians? What is the extent of Tirgan’s success in this matter?
I believe that the festival itself attracts a lot of the younger generation, as multi-generational families come to enjoy the events together. However, when it comes to volunteering and contribution, it is much less common to see the engagement of youth. One of the factors that prevents second generation volunteers’ involvement is language barriers. We conduct our meetings in Farsi and it may be difficult for some to participate. Perhaps it should be one of our main objectives to better engage the new generation of Iranian Canadians and plan accordingly. The second generation can make an important contribution because they understand the Canadian system much better, have stronger English language skills, and can serve as a bridge to the diverse Canadian community. When it comes to generating funds, networking, and marketing the potential contribution of these individuals is invaluable. We could encourage the participation of youth by making it a point to establish stronger connections with them through social events, following up with them directly to help them fit in, and encouraging them to speak up in meetings in whichever language they feel comfortable.