Arts & Culture

Local author creates art, spreads harmony

By Lorraine Graves

Published 10:28 PST, Thu December 19, 2019

Last Updated: 2:33 PST, Tue January 7, 2020

Opening with the traditional greeting “As-Salaam-Alaikum” the audience at the Richmond Cultural Centre responded as one to Farooq Rai with the Arabic form of “And with you, peace.”  

A long-term Richmond resident, Rai was celebrating the launch of his second book, The Journey Continues… highlighting his life as a worker for cultural harmony as a social worker, an assistant deputy minister in the B.C. government, and as an artist. 

Rai came to Canada from Pakistan after the partition of India that created millions of refugees. 

“This is an appropriate greeting when we encourage peace and harmony in Canada and in our community,” he said.

Rai has worked all of his life towards that goal: intercultural harmony and peace both in his home community and throughout the province. 

At the event, sponsored by the Richmond Art Gallery, director Shaun Dacey gave a short biography of Rai that listed many accomplishments including his appointment as the first assistant deputy minister responsible for multiculturalism and immigration in 1994. Also, a writer and advocate in the community, he is recognized for his dedicated volunteer work and efforts in promoting harmonious cross cultural relations. His unique collage art work also depicts his cultural and literary heritage with a message of peace and harmony.

“In keeping with my cultural heritage, I thank God for all the blessings,” said Rai, referring to his Sufi faith tradition. He then thanked his home city of Richmond. 

“The mainstream, they all want peace and harmony. We need to rub shoulders with them. We need to get out into the community.”

Rai said one of the contributing factors for positive change is effective education and art also can play a role of facilitating in the process of sharing about ourselves. “With better understanding and interaction, we will overcome prejudices. We all are committed and actively involved in making our country even stronger, safer and prosperous.”

A member of the Richmond Tennis Club since 1961, Rai is also passionate about art. His art extends to collage and calligraphy in Arabic, Urdu and English as well as acting and flute playing. His home is filled with works of his art, some stacked against the wall three deep. 

His calligraphy features beautiful Urdu poems one of which, a love poem, begins with, “I am connected in souls with you.” Another started with, “Tall buildings, their rich owners even steal the sun.”

Rai said that people have to go out to events, and get more into the mainstream.

“We need to get out of our homes and communities and rub elbows with each other.”

In so doing, Rai said, “Canada will be more prosperous and safer. I am only a Canadian citizen, period.”

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