Hapa-Palooza 2013: Celebrate mixed ethnicity and third culture in Vancouver

Celebrate the whole you with literature, film, art, and dance. This is Hapa-Palooza.

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'Neither Here nor There', a film by Ema Ryan Yamazaki. Catch it at Hapa-Palooza 2013.

The third annual Hapa-Palooza Festival kicks off on September 18, once again bringing three days of art and culture to Vancouver. Focusing on mixed-race identity, this is a celebration of what makes us... us.

Anna Ling Kaye, Hapa-Palooza's Artistic Director, says, "The big thing that’s different this year is that we’re incorporated as our own society. We're making a big push for a bigger festival."

This is your chance to catch Hapa-Palooza while it's still small, as well as your chance to get directly involved in the festival's future. (Sort of like how Burning Man started on a San Francisco Beach, and is now one of the most celebrated cultural gatherings of the year.)

What is hapa?

Mixed Flicks curator Jeff Chiba Stearns says, "'Hapa’ is a half or a part. It’s a Hawaiian term that’s become a way to describe your mixed-ness without breaking yourself down. You're not half-this or quarter-that. It’s a sense of feeling whole. [...] If we continue to play this game of ‘how mixed are you’, then that will be very dangerous.”

Kaye says that the future of Hapa-Palooza is very bright indeed as each year builds upon the last. "This is a chance for us to expand our community, strengthen it, and come up with more and more interesting festivals, more artistic genres, more pan-Canadian artists. We’re really excited to bring the Polynesian dancers to family day. It’s just a beautiful presentation. It’s a culture with a long history of mixed-ness, and we’re really excited to connect with that expression of mixed-roots identity."

Third culture kids

Hapa's Mixed Flicks film night will explore third culture kids for the first time. The term "third culture kid" (TCK or 3CK) refers to a young person bought up in a culture different from that of his or her parents.

In "Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Between Worlds", sociologist David C. Pollock wrote, "The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background."

Third culture isn't about ethnicity, but about place. It's a different kind of mixed-ness. TCK doesn’t come up often in mainstream media, but lots of Vancouver residents will identify with it.  Are you a third culture kid?

If you're third-culture or mixed-race, you may feel left out of the seemingly-incessant discussion about race in modern society. Hapa-Palooza is all about changing that, and not a moment too soon. "Nobody’s celebrating the idea of blending and mixing, and that’s the direction [in which] we’re heading," says Stearns. "We don’t use the long-form census anymore, so we don’t even know what people are."

Where do I fit in?

Kaye said, "We emphasize youth, create role models for them." To that end, you'll get to meet writer/actor/director/producer Michelle Kim, just back from TIFF. Kim says, "Why I have to be multidisciplinary is that multiple languages and multiple cultures live within me. I am multiple things at once.”

This is often in opposition to trends found in Hollywood, where casting is all about ticking boxes. How Mexican do you look? How Greek? Sorry, Ms. Wong, you don't look Chinese enough. Next.

Then there are the audiences: remember the uproar over that Cheerios commercial featuring a mixed-race family? We still live in a world where, despite numerous cultural celebration days, we don't pay too much attention to the notion of hapa.

Not a stuffy lecture series, but an arts festival

Stearns said, "It’s not just this academic dialogue. It’s a celebration. We don’t get so political or academic with it, but we still want to create a dialogue about it."

Let's look at his year's Hapa-Palooza events, all of which are free:

Wednesday, September18 (7-8:30pm)

Mixed Voices Raised (Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch, Alice MacKay Room)

UBC English professor Glenn Deer moderates a panel of accomplished writers exploring their mixed cultural upbringing and its influence on their creative work.

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