Arts & Culture

Asian New Year celebration features Pakistan

More than a dozen Asian and Pacific cultures will celebrate the Asian New Year on Saturday in a daylong free festival at the Tacoma Dome.

“We want to have a cultural event that can bring the communities together and to reach out to the world,” said the event’s chairwoman, Belinda Louie. An education professor at the University of Washington Tacoma, Louie has been working with the 27 groups that make up the Asia Pacific Cultural Center to put on the event.

Pakistan is this year’s host community for the event, now in its 17th year. The state’s diverse Pakistani community spreads from Vancouver north to Blaine and everywhere in between, Shahid Anis said.

“They are in Boeing, they are in Microsoft,” Anis said. “They are doctors, they are attorneys, they are entrepreneurs. They are in the grocery industry, they are in the restaurant industry.”

Anis is the owner of Seattle’s Garam Masala restaurant. He is organizing the Pakistani program for the Tacoma event. Gov. Jay Inslee will deliver the keynote address.

Anis came to San Francisco from Pakistan in the 1960s, when Pakistanis were first moving to Washington, he said. He lived in Tacoma eight years before starting his Seattle business 12 years ago.

The Pakistani program Saturday will feature a mehndi function. Filled with music and dance, the mehndi celebration traditionally occurs one day before a wedding. The application of temporary henna tattoos is a major part of the custom, Anis said.

“They put it on the hand,” Anis said of the tattoos. “We’ll be singing and dancing. It’s very colorful.”

Louie said event goers will be impressed by the Pakistani display. “They have spent so much time and energy to decorate the stage, bring in costumes,” she said. It’s a rare opportunity for the public to witness authentic Pakistani culture. “How many of us can go to Pakistan?” she said.

The Pakistani program will last an hour and a half on the main stage. It will be followed by half-hour performances featuring other Asian and Pacific cultures from Japan, Hawaii, India, the Philippines, China, Tonga, Fiji, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia and Guam.

A secondary stage will feature martial arts demonstrations including taekwondo, karate, aikido, kendo and muay thai.

Food booths will offer selections from Korean, Indonesian, Hawaiian, Pakistani, Chinese and other cuisines. Arts and crafts booths will allow people to participate in Japanese origami, Korean paper lantern making, Indian henna and more.

More than 75 booths will offer information, products and services.