Festival Accès Asie offers a
diversity of artistic disciplines
An interview with Festival Artistic Director Nayla Naoufal
By Jacqueline van de Geer
May 4, 2023
Established in 1995, Festival Accès Asie is Canada’s longest-continuously running Asian heritage arts festival. This Montréal-based arts festival amplifies the voices and practices of artists from the Asian diaspora communities through a diversity of artistic disciplines including the visual, media, literary, performing, interdisciplinary and culinary arts.
This year, Festival Accès Asie celebrates its 28th edition, and I had the pleasure of talking with the Festival’s new artistic director, Nayla Naoufal.
JVG: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Nayla: I was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and moved to Montreal in 2006 to do a Ph.D. I was especially interested in researching environmental justice and anti-racism.
The arts were always very present in my life, and I started writing for art blogs after finishing my Ph.D. I especially wrote about dance and performance and ended up writing for Le Devoir. I wanted to work with Indigenous and racialized artists to help amplify their voices, so I started working more as an art writer, dramaturge and outside eye.
In 2016, I travelled to Norway where I collaborated with a Sami choreographer, which was an amazing learning experience! Returning to Montreal, I joined the team of the MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) and then worked at the Canada Council of the Arts. Since mid-January, I am the artistic director of this vibrant festival, and I am very excited.
This Montréal-based arts festival amplifies the voices and practices of artists from the Asian diaspora communities through a diversity of artistic disciplines including the visual, media, literary, performing, interdisciplinary and culinary arts.
JVG: That is quite an impressive career Nayla. Can you share some highlights of the Festival’s program with WestmountMag.ca readers?
Nayla: There is something for everyone – cinema, dance, theatre, an activity for children… There are free shows, shows at theatres, Maisons de la culture and even outdoors.
Sit, Eat and Chew is a guided site-specific choreographic tour initiated and co-created by Léa Tremblay Fong with members from the local Chinese community and other artists. The tour will start on May 27 at 2 pm in Sun Yat-Sen Park, and there will be a second tour at 3:30 pm. It will be an exciting and interesting walk, filled with performances and untold community stories at every station of the tour. Women from the local community will also perform.
JVG: That sounds so interesting, and after the tour, you could eat some nice ramen or dumplings. What else is happening Nayla?
Nayla: If you need a good laugh while confronting stereotypes, check out this event. From that part of Asia with LOL with Sandy El Bitar is a stand-up comedy show celebrating a diverse lineup of some of the funniest Montréal-based comedians of Asian descent. It is the very first time that the Festival presents a comedy show and it will take place at Sala Rosa. Humour is a way of reclaiming our histories.
‘From that part of Asia with LOL with Sandy El Bitar is a stand-up comedy show celebrating a diverse lineup of some of the funniest Montréal-based comedians of Asian descent.’
Culinary activities include What’s in a Dal by Veena Gokhale, who specializes in vegetarian cuisine and will share Indian cooking stories and, of course, you will be able to taste the Dahl. And do not miss Maitre Han Le’s Japanese Tea Tasting!
There are, as well, visual art exhibitions taking place. At the CAM, on May 4, there is the opening of Bijin: Japanese Beauty. Yukiko Hashizume and Kaori Izumiya contrast different approaches to beauty. The exhibition is curated by Amandine Davre from Artasiam.
There are so many interesting events happening. Best to check out our website and be surprised by the variety of the lineup!
JVG: Thank you so much Nayla. I will certainly be at the opening on May 4.
Festival Accès Asie runs from May 4 to 28.
Images: courtesy of Festival Accès Asie
Originally from the Netherlands, Jacqueline van de Geer crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 2005 to live and work in Montréal. She has a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and performance arts.