Redefining Culture: Bengali Style

Bengali immigrant Dazana H. recently took time out of her studies to speak with the FJORD about how being a young immigrant has affected both the opportunities she is given and her mindset towards others now. 

Five years ago, Dazana and her family immigrated to Canada from Bangladesh, where she was born and raised in the capital city of Dhaka. She began learning English, having spent one year in the ESL classroom by the time she came to school in Canada.

According to Dazana, people in Bangladesh “place a really high value on education.” She went on to say that in Bangladesh, “Everybody educates their children, whether it’s a girl or a boy now. It didn’t used to be like that in [almost] all of South Asia.” 

It is no surprise then that educational opportunities available here were a driving factor in Dazana’s family’s decision to make the move.

When asked what made her transition to Canada easier, Dazana said she “focused on the main reason [her] parents [brought] [her] here, which is education.”

Dazana reflected on how her immigrant status often opens up more doors for her: “I feel like, some places I’m given more opportunities, and I’m given that opportunity because I’m so different. Universities consider cultured people and immigrants over [native Canadian students] because they want immigrant students to be coming here. Then in other places, [people] obviously look at you differently because of how different [you] physically look.”

Majdi Bou Matar, artistic director at MT Space Theatre was invited by Dazana to speak at a Cultural Mosaic Club meeting. In light of Bardish Chagger’s climbing success, Matar encouraged the students to use that which makes them different as immigrants to their advantage.

With there being a recent emphasis on cultural diversity, particularly in Justin Trudeau’s freshly chosen cabinet, Matar and Dazana both seem to share a common opinion:

“A culture is not only about its music, dance, history… it’s the people who are there: the sacrifices and the blood that are there,” said Dazana.

Matar seconded this in his presentation at Cultural Mosaic club, also.

Now having experienced two completely different cultures in her life, Dazana feels that she is now more open-minded: “After coming here, I saw more, I learned more. I can go out on the streets [and do more than in Bangladesh] because in Bangladesh it’s not safe on the streets for girls. So I’m wiser here than I would have been there.”

Dazana H. performs a traditional Bengali dance
Dazana H. performs a traditional Bengali dance

She further expressed her strong belief that exposure to different cultures is very important: “Knowing different cultures, knowing our humanity and our civilization is very important.”

Dazana strives to do just this, not only being an ambassador for her own Bengali culture, but also an ambassador for cultural diversity and inclusivity. She said, “Everyday I wake up in the morning and when [I] look around, all the things that we have, they’re all from different countries.”  

Her message then is to recognize that everything around us, whether it be a TV remote made in China, or a person “made in China,” has a culture and a story behind it, and each of these stories and cultures deserve our recognition and appreciation.