We asked journalist Dennis Spaine to bring you the highlights from the Vergezichten Festival that took place on Saturday June 17th 2023 at azc Nijmegen-Oost. The festival was a vibrant celebration of people through stories, dishes, music and workshops, showcasing the rich cultural tapestry of different communities residing at the centre. Today, on World Refugee Day, we look back at the festival with Dennis. Because of the international character of the festival, this text is in English. (Photo’s by Rudmer van Hulzen.)
Vergezichten Festival: A Celebration of Diversity and Culture
As the festival unfolded, attendees were greeted with a kaleidoscope of scents and flavours from various corners of the globe. From Indian delicacies to Turkish delights, from Syrian specialties to the vibrant tastes of Africa, the food stands at Vergezichten Festival offered a tantalising journey for the taste buds. It was heartening to learn that all the culinary delights were lovingly prepared by the talented individuals from the azc, who shared their unique cultural heritage through their culinary creations.
The festival grounds were adorned with colourful flags, each representing a specific program or activity. Visitors were guided by friendly hosts, easily identifiable by their vibrant flags, leading them through the diverse array of events. One notable destination was the gallery space of neighbour Ineke van Middelkoop, with an art exhibition featuring captivating paintings by Daham, a talented artist from the azc, hailing from Syria. The mesmerising artwork served as a bridge between cultures, inviting everyone to appreciate the beauty of artistic expression.
We were treated to captivating live music by Ineke’s husband, the talented singer-songwriter Hans Hamers, whose melodies transported us to distant lands. The atmosphere was electric, and the joyful rhythms filled the air with a contagious energy, making it impossible to resist dancing to the beat.
One of the festival’s highlights was the opportunity to meet the AlGaial family from Syria (photo above). They graciously shared their journey from their homeland to the Netherlands, offering insights into their experiences, hopes and dreams. This heartfelt exchange reminded us of the power of storytelling and the strength of human connection.
Food enthusiasts were in for a treat as Sara Shawkat, author of the renowned cookbook NOOMI, engaged in a captivating conversation about food and cooking with Maritza Serna Rendón and Muhammad Ziad Haffar (photo above). The discussion sparked a sense of culinary curiosity and encouraged attendees to explore the diverse flavours that unite us all.
Throughout the festival, several extraordinary individuals left an indelible mark on our hearts. Moni Zwitserloot presented the extraordinary collection, Het water gaat (‘The water goes’), on the main stage, weaving tales of resilience and hope (photo below). The book was written by new residents of the Netherlands that are now learning Dutch. Muhammad Ziad, a gifted storyteller from Syria, enraptured the audience with his short stories, showcasing the power of language to transcend borders and touch souls.
Nicole Kaandorp, known for her creativity, presented the Limos stage and conducted a delightful workshop on blackout poetry, igniting the imagination of the young participants. Mira Feticu, originally from Romania, expressed her deep love for the Dutch language on the Limos stage, captivating listeners with her poetic words. Sholeh Rezazadeh, a writer, poet and performer who now calls the Netherlands home, recited poignant verses and shared her personal journey.
The festival was alive with mesmerising performances by Yallah! Yallah! as they performed vibrant melodies from the Middle East and North Africa. Their live performance on the main stage was a true testament to the universal language of music, which knows no boundaries.
No festival would be complete without the azc house band, Orchestre Partout (photo below). This remarkable band, composed of azc residents, graced the stage with music that emanated from their souls.
As we bid farewell to the Vergezichten Festival, let us carry the spirit of unity, diversity and creativity in our hearts. May the memories created within these moments inspire us to build bridges, celebrate our differences and cherish the beauty of human connection. Until we meet again, let the spirit of the festival continue to thrive within us all.