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WAYO 4th Annual Children's Festival

August 9 to 13, 2023

Berkeley Castle & Berkeley Theatre

Wayo 2023 was a five-day children’s festival from August 9th to 13th 2023, which took place at the heart of The Esplanade neighbourhood, in partnership with Berkeley Castle and Canadian Stage. With hundreds attending, the festival was a huge success.

The uniqueness of the Wayo Festival resides in its concept. The festival is a parkour-like series of artistic experiences that invites groups of audience members to discover performative live installations through two heritage buildings at 2 Berkeley St (Berkeley Castle), 26 Berkeley St (Canadian Stage/Berkeley Theatre).

At the 4th Annual WAYO Children's festival, young adventurers and their parents were invited to explore the 5 elements: water, fire, earth, air and love! With this series of mesmerizing dance and musical performances, every turn revealed a new and exciting surprise throughout Berkeley Castle and Canadian Stage.


Presented and Produced by Jamii

In Partnership with Canadian Stage and Berkeley Castle

Artistic Direction and Concept: Isorine Marc

Performing artists: Sue Croweagle, Samantha Thornton, Jaime Kearns, Yvonne Ng, Midori Marsh , Nikitha James, Suzette Vidale, Edz Gyamfi, Miss Coco Murra, Carolina Rojas, Aline Morales, Maya Hall, Daniel Hamin Go, Linda Epp, Troy Feldman, Caitlin Morris-Cornfield

Fire Performer Assistant: Christene Fenton

Jamii Production Team: Jonelle Sills, Iris Unlu, Isorine Marc, Maryam Alireza, Afnan Yakot, Yusra Yacout, Osman Mahmud

Tech and Support Team: Rahma, Hadeal, Mumina, Omar, Karen, MJ, Sabrine, Nada, Amir, Amir, Mira, Mahmoud, Zahra Omar

Special thanks to our volunteers: Aela, Francesca, Zhenmei, Heidi, Jumanah, Maryam, Alina, Gennavive, Stella

"A Children's Festival on The Esplanade: Wayo"

By Sharon Zarita

Every summer The Esplanade’s non-profit arts organization, Jamii, gives children and their families a multi-arts experience through WAYO Children’s Festival at Berkeley Castle and Canadian Stage. WAYO gets its name from ‘footsteps’ in Swahili. This year it had children journeying through elements of earth, fire, wind, water, and love expressed as performing art pieces.

In groups, children and their parents start this hour-long adventure at the earth footstep. Earth which is embodied by a stilt walker whose reindeer horns, leaf belt and butterfly wings combine into a glorified character that magnifies our planet’s beauty. The stilt walker’s stage is a tree with musical wind chimes which are irresistible to a 3-year-old within the group, Hayun. By standing bare feet on the grass and giving the tree gifts of soil the children are reminded to be present and take care of this land. When they are invited to close their eyes and listen to the heartbeat of the earth distant drumming emerges.

One by one they open their eyes to the sound of an Indigenous drummer. A unison moment of stillness indicates their awareness of how sacred this drumming and singing is. The next song starts with who lives in a pineapple house and all the children chorus spongebob! A fascinating rendition of SpongeBob SquarePants by indigenous drumming and cheery chants follows. The final honour to earth is an Ojibwe directional song. As it ends and they head off to discover the fire footstep a parent asks the artist what miigwetch means. I marvel how artistic spaces enable reconciliation through interaction with Indigenous culture and language.

The soothing sound of cello playing ushers fire and the children follow the music. Without being told they take spots on furnace-themed mats, eyes glued to the cello. The cello player inserts a poetic verse with a riddle that all the children solve by shouting fire. These chants invite a circus artist with fire-lit rods who is accompanied by gasps of oooh and ahhh with every stunt. The rods are moved gracefully and brought closer to the children who seem tempted to touch, including Hayun sitting very close to her brother at the front. They cheer loudly at the end and quickly stand to discover the next footstep.

An indoor cool room with colourful drapings made out of sarees, an opera singer and piano playing usher in wind. A dancer characterizes the sarees making them create a path the children follow to an inner opening. The group is captured in a theatrical opera and dance performance which has pauses of sighing, breathing and wind whistles. Everyone joins in the rhythm and breathes out at the right cue. A reminder to take a wellness moment and appreciate the life within us. Harun moves closer to the pianist and the month-old babies in the room are alert throughout. The footstep of wind builds anticipation of the upcoming discoveries.

A colourful mural of water animals on their path gives a hint of the next footstep. They walk into Berkeley Theatre where water bubbles float the air and steelpan music creates an ambience of playfulness. The middle of the room has a huge round bubble whose fabric is removed by a stilt walker to reveal a human sleeping in it. You can almost feel the curiosity of the children rise as the person awakens and tries to move out of the ball. This becomes a comical interactive performance where the artist and his young audience try to connect through the ball without words but guided by the sounds of the steelpan. The natural way water strengthens our humanity is shown with every scene.

Doors open to the footstep of love where a wedding film is playing and whispers fill the room when they realize the film is shot in their neighbourhood, The Esplanade. An artist in a ceremonial gown emerges singing and drumming, ushering in the celebratory mood in the film. A dancer joins and the audience claps loudly. Shakers are passed, confetti is thrown, a group dance starts, joy fills the room as people experience an imagination of the film in person. What a perfect way to end this journey of live performances and arts experiences!

The final footsteps are at a craft table where attendees decorate pots and take seeds to grow at home. They get their faces painted with some of the elements and get festival pictures as keepsakes. You can hear them reliving their favourite moments of the performances with each other. This local arts festival has evidently made their day. Hayun picks a pot and chooses pebbles but her hands are too tiny to hold the glue. I offer to help then realize English is not her first language and she had experienced WAYO by the borderless power of art. We craft in silence as I admire how art is a shared element for human connection.

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Photos by Jae Yang

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