Sister Act: Malini and Hemani Singh
Recipients of the 2022 Community Arts Volunteer Award, Malini and Hemani were recognized for their dedication to promoting classical Indian dance, music and culture both at their school and in the community at large.
When sisters Malini and Hemani Singh found out they had won the Community Arts Volunteer Award, one of Orangeville’s annual Arts and Culture Awards, they didn’t believe it was real. “Our dad woke us up and told us that we had won. I thought he was joking!” laughs younger sibling Hemani.
The talented pair received the accolade for promoting classical Indian dance, music and culture both at their school and in the community at large. Malini, 18, a recent graduate of Orangeville District Secondary School, explains how she began training in dance when she was just five years old and fell in love with the art form. Hemani, now 14 and also at ODSS, joined her older sister in dance when she was about 10. The two have been performing together at temples, religious events and festivals in both Dufferin County and Peel Region.
The Singh family has called Orangeville home for the past six years, and the girls have been the driving force behind a number of multicultural events at their schools and beyond. “It’s really important to promote diversity and celebrate different cultures,” says Malini, who was an active member of the school’s Diversity Student Association and enlisted fellow students to participate in making rangoli – floor art created with coloured sand – to celebrate Holi, an ancient Hindu spring festival.
While Malini’s passion is dance and choreography, Hemani is musically gifted and received her elementary school’s music award. She loves to sing and plays the western flute and the harmonium. And she recently began learning the bansuri, a bamboo flute that originated in India. “It’s really hard,” she giggled, as she shyly demonstrated how to position your fingers on the long, elegant instrument.
This year, Hemani and Malini volunteered at the Dufferin County Multicultural Event, held at the Museum of Dufferin, where they performed Kathak and Bharatanatyam classical dances. The two were happy to participate in the festival and promote their heritage. “You’ve got to keep your culture alive,” explains Hemani. “Even if there aren’t a lot of people in your area who celebrate that culture, you should promote it and be proud.”
Though the sisters have been performing in public since they were quite young, they say they still get the jitters before a big show. “Before the event, we have to practise every day for weeks,” Malini says. No mean feat considering the two have their studies to worry about, on top of part-time jobs.
Now that Malini is attending university, where she is focusing on child and youth studies with a view to becoming a children’s lawyer, she doesn’t have quite as much time to dedicate to dance. Still, she intends to continue to train and perform. Hemani, on the other hand, wants to work with her hands and has developed a strong interest in welding after taking part in a welding camp at school.
Proud father Vishal Singh is thrilled his daughters received the award and hopes it will inspire more young people to promote multiculturalism: “It’s so wonderful to see all the talented individuals around our community, and I wish to see even more, especially the youth.”