The Ghost of the Ship Komagata Maru Still Haunts Canadian Waters


Who cares about a Japanese ship that sailed a hundred years ago?

We do, and we’re pretty sure you will too.

The Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver harbour on May 22nd, 1914 carrying 376 immigrants from India. The abusive treatment they endured while waiting to be granted entry to Canada—only to be denied and turned around—marks a pivotal moment in Canadian race relations. It’s also considered a turning point in the history of South Asian immigration to Canada because it inspired a number of reforms to Canadian policy. Despite being one of our most shameful memories, we won’t hide the Komagata Maru incident in the past. Instead, it’s time to explore its implications.

That’s where UFV English prof Rajnish Dhawan comes in. He was commissioned by the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies to write a one act play commemorating the event’s anniversary. He vaguely remembered learning about it in Grade Nine history, where the incident merited one paragraph of attention in his text book. But once Raj started researching the history and surrounding context of the event, he knew one act wouldn’t be enough.

Raj’s full-length, two act play—called That Land Beyond the Waves—is his best yet, he believes. It brings fresh life to the past by exploring the situation from a variety of characters’ perspectives, focusing deeply on relationships and family.

The project is a real UFV family affair, with more than 50 actors and volunteers from across campus and community stepping up to turn Raj’s vision into reality. John Carroll and Michelle Laflamme, also UFV English profs, are donating their time as director and assistant director, respectively.

Mark the dates in your calendar now: there are only two chances to watch this transformative tribute to one of the most infamous—and important—moments in Canadian history. Come to Matsqui Centennial Auditorium on November 1st at 7:00 pm or November 2nd at 1:00 pm.

You’ll never see the Komagata Maru the same way.

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