By CELA on 1 Apr, 2021

Who doesn’t love a festival? They’re fun and colourful, and give us the chance to celebrate diversity and cultural heritage.

A new Australian book called The Big Book of Festivals inspires people to learn more about the different ways people celebrate around the world, and all of their diverse traditions, customs and beliefs – a lesson that is all the more poignant at a time when both travel and public gatherings are restricted.

Amplify talks to Tasmanian authors Marita Bullock and Joan-Maree Hargreaves about the inspiration behind this new book which covers events from tomato-throwing parties to fire-walking ceremonies, crying baby competitions and the biggest bathing festival on Earth.

A desire to create ‘new perspectives on culture and people’

Authors Marita and Joan-Maree tell us that they were inspired to write the book after identifying a need for creative non-fiction books that offer new perspectives on culture and people told from a fresh perspective.

“We grew up in the hey-day of multiculturalism in Australia, witnessing the evolution of advanced globalisation and the dramatic shift toward an interconnected society,” says Marita. “However, at the same time (and perhaps in response) we have also seen the rise of increasing polarisation, especially in recent years, whereby cultural difference is becoming a cause for discrimination, rather than celebration.”

Asked about their favourite festival, the authors say that ‘Gelede’ is high on their list. It’s a festival celebrated amongst Yoruba communities in parts of Western Africa that honours the power and spiritual role of women as bearers of life.

“It’s a light-hearted event that celebrates all mothers including female ancestors, female gods and elderly women,” says Joan-Maree. “It takes place between March and May, but it can also be performed in times of hardship such as funerals and epidemics, which is very interesting given the times we’re living through.”

Lively illustrations introduce celebrations from around the world

The authors tell us that The Big Book of Festivals is a great way to engage children because it is full of life and movement.

“The illustrations themselves are very evocative and playful and there are so many things to discover including bright, colourful masks, and gorgeous figures playing and dancing,” says Marita, who also highlights an activity at the front of the book which prompts the reader or listener to look out for children that appear throughout the pages.

Children may enjoy spotting some of the familiar symbols and motifs from their own festival traditions, whilst also finding the similarities and differences at play in festivals that are unfamiliar to them.

A book that inspires inclusion

By learning about, and understanding different cultural celebrations from around the world, we can help children to appreciate and value cultural diversity.

“In our book, different cultures and traditions sit side-by-side,” explains Joan-Maree. “Learning about these different cultural traditions and celebrations is the first step to being inclusive and welcoming to all people. By learning about the many wonderfully diverse festivals and traditions across the globe, some held for many for hundreds or even thousands of years, we can also see that we are all human beings united in celebration, and the marking of life’s important events.”

A book on festivals is a timely subject, not only because this topic highlights the value and purpose of different cultural practices and belief systems from around the globe, but because festivals also emphasise a common thread – the value of community and the joy in coming together to celebrate.

Festivals covered in the book include: Lunar New Year, Day of the Dead, Kumbh Mela, Holi, Diwali, Gelede, Christmas, La Tomatina, Eid-ul-Fitr, Konaki Sumo, Carnaval, Hanukkah, Anastenaria, Festival of Giants, Matariki, Halloween, The Birthday of Guru Nanuk, Buddha’s Birthday, Bunya Cone Harvest Festival, Easter, Inti Raymi, Venetian Masquerade Ball, and more.

CELA decided to share the details of this book after a news of its launch landed in our inbox because we thought our members and readers would enjoy it. It’s not available through our website, however it’s now available at many online retailers including Booktopia, Angus & Robertson and Amazon, simply type the book title into your browser.

About the authors:

Marita Bullock has worked as an academic and secondary school teacher across the fields of Cultural Studies, Film, Art and Literature, most recently at the University of Sydney. She has published numerous articles on art and the visualisation of ‘difference’, and her academic book – Memory Fragments: Visualising Difference in Australian History – investigates the relationship between object fragments and cultural memory in Australian art, museums and culture.

Joan-Maree Hargreaves is inspired by the bravery and optimism of children. She is driven by a desire to tell stories about ‘real’ life in a visually captivating and unexpected way. She has a special interest in social justice and representations of diversity. Joan-Maree has worked in publishing and magazines for more than a decade and has edited a number of Australian and international children’s titles. She has also written hundreds of articles for The Sydney Morning Herald, including specialised educational supplements for children.

About the illustrator:

Liz Rowland is a British Illustrator with a particular interest in people and cultures. Since graduating from Falmouth University in 2011, Liz has worked with clients including Vogue, Gourmet Traveller and Visit Britain. Liz’s work is hand rendered, using a combination of gouache and watercolour. She is inspired by colour and pattern. Through her work Liz explores our interactions both with each other and with our environment.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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