By Robert Thomas Opinion/Commentary

As we head into the what is Spring there are many great developments on the horizon.

First off there is the triumphant return of two major events to the city. The first is the airshow and the second one is Motif.

One is likely to bring in thousands just south of the city while the other though not drawing in so large of crowds is in my opinion the most important.

I realize I may very well sound a little bit crazy to many but I personally view Motif as the most important of the two not for the size of the crowd and potential impact economically but rather the true importance it has for Moose Jaw.


We are a city whether people want to believe, accept it or quite frankly care that is becoming more diverse not only culturally, but ethnically and yes even religiously. To showcase all of this is by far the most important thing in my opinion.

Being held July 12 - 14 Motif is billed as the premier event for the display of the numerous cultures in the city.

Does it display every ethnic group in Moose Jaw? No it does not. Does it display every culture which is in Moose Jaw? No it does not. No multicultural festival I know of anywhere in North America does that.

With that said Motif nevertheless does a fine job displaying the cultures and ethnic makeup of Moose Jaw. In many ways it is what the various groups chose to put into it.

As many of the older generation of some cultural groups or ethnic backgrounds have passed on with them goes the language, culture and drive to display their own unique heritage.

It is not that Motif would not like to showcase every cultural group out there but it truly is for there to be those in the various groups willing to come forward and help showcase their culture.

It is one event I personally was looking forward to but I myself am going to have to miss due to other plans set in motion over a year ago.

For all of us life is continually changing and because of that I am sorry I personally will not be able to attend this year. I am headed out across the pond so to speak to my family and my second home in Odessa. And yes as of today I am 90 days from getting back home - finally.

I can think of my family’s background and how Odessa is the magical place or rather region we all came from so long ago. It has been and always will be in many ways a mini-Motif.

The best way to describe Odessa is to just describe it in Olya’s words and that is Odessa is a place where all kinds of people come together and then they are all mixed together.

She eloquently describes it as some great industrial blender where souls and spirits are seemingly violently and magically mixed together and they come out with a smooth blend which is the heart and soul of the Paris of the Black Sea.

It is a city of many cultures and if you were really to name the local cuisine it is famous for it would have to be Jewish. The working language is Russian - always has and likely always will be. And the architecture is French. There is a touch of the ancient Greek. Added with a pinch of Romanian or should we say Moldovan and finally, but by no means not all the cultures there, a German twist. It leaves a city with a soul that is sort of dour in a humorous sort of way.

This is what the organizers of Moose Jaw’s own outdoor cultural festival hope to put on display. It is an event they cannot do without the entire city of Moose Jaw. Which in many ways is very fitting because Motif is in fact all about the citizens of Moose Jaw and how we all have our own unique backgrounds.

As for myself the second I get off of the plane I am no longer a Canadian I am instantly an Odessit I actually blend in that well. It is what Olya always tell me. I look like the locals, I can easily understand the humour and I seem to look like I belong but there is something just slightly different in me from my fellow Odessites. I differ from many of the people around me but in the Cossack quarter most people just think of me as part of the neighbourhood as I look and act as if I was born there.

Most local people are clueless that I am a foreigner. I can be screamed at by the locals, including the police, for acting like a fool but what they realize I am a foreigner the tone changes really quickly.

Where I live in Odessa I am within easy walking distances of the homes of three prolific Russian writers Pushkin, Tolstoy and Gogol. In fact Gogol’s house is literally less than 125 meters away and they say if you smell close enough the ashes of his great masterpiece Dead Souls II can still be smelt as in a fit of madness he burnt what is likely one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. Only a few pages remain to show what Gogol was thinking. But I digress.

In many ways though Motif can be likened to a mini-Odessa as for three days it mixes culture with music, song and dance. And oh yeah with food, a whole lot of food. Albeit in a much, much smaller way then you will ever witness in Odessa. For Moose Jaw though it is something to be proud of.

At the present time the Motif committee is out looking for the two things which make a cultural, or any festival a success, and that is volunteers to help make the festival run smoothly and of course support from the business community and others to help defray the expenses.

Putting on any type of festival is always a lot of hard work and it is no easy affair when you hold such a large event in the great outdoors. But it is tradition and it is time to lets face it probably the surroundings of Happy Valley Park with its trees, grass, shade and cooling breezes is the best place to hold it.

A cultural celebration should never be a side show of any other street fair. It is great that it might be there to a small extent at Sidewalk Days and other area events but it does deserve and need its own dedicated event.

In many ways, although not so panoramic nor historic, Motif’s being outside in Happy Valley Park catches the bright ambiances a concert on the Potemkin Stairs does. It is an orchestrated event where the music and performances simply flow.

Outdoor music played on the Potemkin Steps - Odessa, Ukraine

Outdoor music played on the Potemkin Steps - Odessa, Ukraine

Certainly it does not have the same funk you might have if it were to held Downtown on some hot concrete but it does have its own unique rhythm which concrete and asphalt are never going to give to you.

But there are other great things to be remembered about Motif and that not only is it a celebration of different cultures, each with their own traditional dishes, it is also a celebration of where Moose Jaw has been, where it is and in the end where it is heading. Believe it or not diversity in the Friendly City is growing at rates you may not be able to appreciate.

Culture is for many, myself included, something which is definitely hard to define and whether we like it or not growing in an ever expanding world but at the same time disappearing at a massive rate. We are all becoming one as our cultures are blending rapidly as things such as languages, traditional dress, foods and yes even religion get mowed down in a world rapidly growing into itself.

In that backdrop it is why events like Motif are so important. It is a way to celebrate our uniqueness and at the same time reminding us we are all the same. It is no small feat to accomplish this and it is why Motif is so important for Moose Jaw.

If I was going to be around Motif is likely an event I would be attending if not pitching in to help out.

I am hopeful that if you have some spare time you can call and offer the Motif Committee a hand in whatever way you can that you contact them here http://mjmcinc.ca/.

Here is hoping the return of Motif is a great one and the citizens of Moose Jaw and elsewhere get out and support it as in the end it is an event about all of us.

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