Mohammed Abel Abbas stands at the Crowsnest Pass circa 1979. Abbas, of Indo-Fijian descent, was heading back to his home in Sparwood after visiting Alberta. A new Community Treasures exhibit at the Museum of Surrey tells the story of Surrey’s Indo-Fijians. (Photo submitted: Rizwaan Abbas)

Mohammed Abel Abbas stands at the Crowsnest Pass circa 1979. Abbas, of Indo-Fijian descent, was heading back to his home in Sparwood after visiting Alberta. A new Community Treasures exhibit at the Museum of Surrey tells the story of Surrey’s Indo-Fijians. (Photo submitted: Rizwaan Abbas)

‘Indo-Fijians’ exhibit to open at Museum of Surrey

Community Treasurers exhibit to tell story of Indo-Fijians and their culture

Another unique Community Treasurers exhibit is opening at the Museum of Surrey.

This time the exhibition will focus on Indo-Fijian culture.

“Nestled within Surrey’s population, lies a unique Indo-Fijian culture born from the tropical paradise of the Fiji Islands,” reads a description on the City of Surrey’s website. “Explore the shared history of these voyager people who left India in search for a future but found hardship and cruelty in Fiji before finally finding a home here in Surrey.”

Called “The Indo-Fijians: Surrey’s Pocket of Paradise,” the show runs from Sept. 15 to Dec. 19, 2021.

Surrey’s Rizwaan Abbas is a local archaeologist of Indo-Fijian descent. He organized the exhibit at MoS.

“Many people do not realize that the Indo-Fijian population in Surrey is one of the four largest diasporas in the world,” Abbas said. “With this exhibit I am trying to introduce the shared history of the Indo-Fijian people, explain the details of Indo-Fijian culture: food, music, language, clothing etc., and showcase businesses and social programs in Surrey which help to perpetuate the Indo-Fijian culture.”

Abbas said he was inspired to tell the story of Indo-Fijian people as he spent time alone with his father while his father lay dying.

“I had been an archaeologist at that point for 20 years and he didn’t understand what I did.”

Abbas said in the conversations that followed with his father he explained to him how he studies First Nations culture and history here in B.C.

“I sat there and chatted with him for a long time. And I started thinking to myself, ‘Why am I not studying my culture or my father’s culture?’ And so I decided to change that.”

That seed of thought grew into an idea to tell Surrey’s Indo-Fijian story. That’s when Abbas applied to be part of the museum’s Community Treasures exhibit series.

When his application was accepted, Abbas was over the moon.

“I was happy to be able to tell the history of the Indo-Fijian culture, but also to tell the story of my dad’s immigration to Canada, about how he built a life here, and about how Indo-Fijians built a community.”

The exhibition is broken down into three parts: 1.) the history of Indo-Fijians, 2.) the unique cultural aspects of the community, and 3.) the Indo-Fijian community in Surrey.

“I flesh it out with artifacts,” explained Abbas. “Most of them are my dad’s, helping to bring his story to life.”

Abbas said his biggest motivation for the exhibit was his desire to tell the story of Indo-Fijians, a community, he says, that not many people know about. “Most people don’t know about the flourishing Indo-Fijian community in Surrey,” noted Abbas. “I wanted to inform everyone that, yes, this community does exist.”

He said part of that is to introduce the term Indo-Fijian. “It’s used in academia, but not so much in the vernacular. It’s a separate term from Fijian, noting the uniqueness of our culture and people.”

Community Treasures exhibitions are shows brought to the museum through public outreach and engagement.

According to the Museum of Surrey, “Community Treasures celebrates the stories of Surrey’s people.”

The “Indo-Fijians” runs until Dec. 19 at the Museum of Surrey, 17710 56A Avenue.

Tickets are free. To find out more info, contact the museum at 604.592.6956, or museum@surrey.ca, or by visiting surrey.ca.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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