A decade ago Arshad and Asma Mahmood decided it was high time Mississauga had more high-profile arts and cultural events that reflected the backgrounds and interests of the city’s inhabitants. Along with a group of like-minded friends they established the Canadian Community Arts Initiative (CCAI), and, soon after, Mosaic, a South Asian multidisciplinary arts festival, was born. Now celebrating its ninth year, the 2014 festival will take place from August 7th to 16th in Mississauga. The 2014 festivities kick off with the opening night gala and a feature film at the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF), and goes out with a bang at the music festival Rock the Coliseum (RTC) and the grand two-day outdoor festival, both on August 15th and 16th at Mississauga’s Celebration Square next to Square One.
Tell us a bit about yourselves. What should people know?
We are both passionate about arts and it goes way back when we were just students in Pakistan. We formed our own band, the first one in Islamabad, and pioneered the music and youth organization structure in that city. I, Asma, am a visual artist with a Masters in Fine Arts from York University and run my own art gallery in Mississauga called Promenade Gallery. Arshad is from a financial background and runs his own mortgage business with INVIS in Mississauga. He has served on the Board of the Canadian National Exhibition, Art Gallery of Mississauga, and was the president of the Art Gallery of Mississauga for two years. Arshad has also won the Hazel McCallion Volunteer of the Year Award. I have served as the Chair for Art City in St. James Town, Mississauga Arts Council, am the founding director of South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC), and currently serve as Chair for the Canadian Community Arts Initiate. We are both recipients of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award for our outstanding service to arts and culture in Canada.
Why did you originally want to start Mosaic? What motivated it?
We felt that Mississauga was a desert in a sense of cultural activity for its South Asian community and wanted it to become an active scene for our children to enjoy the arts and culture that we grew up watching and promoting ourselves. Ten years ago we established the Canadian Community Arts Initiative, a non-profit organization, with some like-minded friends and started Mosaic and Rock the Coliseum. Nine years ago Mosaic Festival was started with the vision of bringing an arts and cultural event to the city, which did not have a substantial event catered to the needs of new immigrants and youth of Mississauga. The aim is to bring world class representation in arts and culture from around the world to the citizens of Mississauga and Canada and provide an opportunity for Canadian artists to perform and enhance their skills in front of local audiences and make contacts and learn from international representation.
How has it grown over the last nine years as a festival? What have been some of the highlights in its growth?
Over the last nine years, Mosaic has become the largest free South Asian festival in North America spanning over 10 days. One of the highlights of its growth is the music and youth component of it called “Rock the Coliseum,” which is now the largest free indie music festival in the GTA. It has presented hundreds of Canadian musicians and aspiring bands as well as provided an outlet for youth to showcase their talent.
What can we expect from this year’s festival?
Festivities start on August 7th with the opening night gala and a feature film at the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF). The music festival Rock the Coliseum (RTC) will take place on August 15th and 16th, as will the grand two-day outdoor festival, taking place at Mississauga’s Celebration Square next to Square One. This year, attendees can expect many different exciting entertainment including award-winning independent films from around the world as well as Canada. We have some great names from the South Asian arts and entertainment industry attending including Indian Actor Rajat Kapoor and Indian filmmaker and composer Vishal Bharadwaj. The visual arts component of the festival will showcase works by world-renowned Canadian-Pakistani artist Rashid Rana, co-presented by the Art Gallery of Mississauga and Toronto’s Agha Khan Museum. Rock the Coliseum will present some well-known bands and local talents, while the TD Mosaic Outdoor Festival will present over 150 artists including India’s leading playback singer Rekha Bharadwai. We are also excited to welcome leading Bollywood choreographer Shiamak Davar, whose choreography will be performed by a local Toronto dance team.
Mosaic is the only South Asian event where you see such high quality performances for the pleasure of diverse audiences. It is simply a great cultural event that will make you dance and sing; you’ll enjoy every minute of it while taking part in a great culinary and shopping experience.
Finish this sentence: I love Mississauga because…
…this city gives us an opportunity to enjoy living in a world-class city while maintaining the high and rich cultural experience that makes it so special.