To represent individuals’ thoughts, culture and heritage through language and to cultivate societal understanding, the UN Office (UNO) in Azerbaijan teamed up with the Integration of Azerbaijani Youth to Europe Organization (AGAT), the Coordination Council of National Communities and Sattar Bahlulzada Central Exhibition Hall, on 21 February, to jointly celebrate International Mother Language Day for the fourth time in Azerbaijan, with a festival.
In keeping with the distinctively inspirational theme of “Unity in Diversity”, the educational and cultural festival was rich with vivid colors, dances, national costumes, as well as traditional foods, songs, and poems laced with vibrant history. It brought together representatives of the Azerbaijani Parliament, heads of diplomatic missions, local authorities, civil society activists, linguists and other prominent personalities representing the Azerbaijani artistic circle and highlighting the value of diversity in languages – both as a means of communication and as an expression of culture and identity in a tolerant society.
“Welcome”, “Xoş gəlmişsiniz”, “Willkommen”, “Добро пожаловать”, “Dobrodošli” Ms. Envera Selimovic, the UN Department of Public Information (UN DPI) Representative in Azerbaijan, greeted the audience. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” she added, echoing the great South African, Nelson Mandela, leader while highlighting the role of language in the culture of nations and in bridging understanding and thus fostering tolerance.
The Festival was embellished with performances by the Polish, Jewish, Russian, Tatar, Turkish and Greek communities residing in Azerbaijan who introduced their respective language and culture through folk music, presentations, and national dances. The audience was impressed by the ancient history of the Greek language, danced under the rhythms of Turkish musical instruments, sang along to a Russian folk song, waved Polish flags, cheered Jewish dancers, and tasted delicious “Chak-Chak” – a national Tatar sweet.
More than 20 media representatives covered the festival, equally enjoying various performances. Some journalists gave particular attention to the event itself, while others chose to take a broader view exploring the phenomenon of the changing nature of language, and the roles of the UN in general and UNESCO’s responsibilities in particular.
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