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Ethnic Arts Festival: A showcase of culture, customs, and creativity

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Sujana Shrestha (‘17) represents her country Nepal.

Sujana Shrestha (‘17) represents her country Nepal.

Xavier Conzet (‘19) | Chips

Xavier Conzet (‘19) | Chips

Sujana Shrestha (‘17) represents her country Nepal.

Xavier Conzet, Staff Writer

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The Ethnics Arts Festival, an annual event at Luther since the 1980s, gives students the opportunity to feature their countries and customs with various displays and presentations. Students participating presented booths to teach attendees about their country.  The event was held in the Center for the Arts (CFA) on Feb. 25.

Tiwonge Chirwa (‘19) believes that the festival benefits Luther’s campus and the Decorah community because it brings the student body and residents of Decorah a deeper understanding of what it is like to be studying far away from one’s home country.

“The Ethnic Arts Festival means community,” Chirwa said. “It means getting together and learning about other people and their cultures. When you are a member of a community it is important to know those around you and appreciate where they come from.”

According to Chirwa, learning about others also helps dispel any stereotypes that the countries are labeled with.

Vicky Torrillas (‘17) helped plan the event and presented a booth for both Uruguay and Argentina.

“It is a learning experience for both the person tabling and the attendees,” Torrillas said. “This one time a little girl came to my table and asked why my flag had a sun on it.  I had no idea so we ended up just Googling it.” 

Xavier Conzet (‘19) | Chips
Nanuun Tsend-Ayush (‘18) shares her culture from Mongolia with Abby Vidmar (‘19).

According to Torrillas, the Ethnic Arts Festival has also changed her perception of Luther and what it is like to be a foreigner in the United States. Torrillas feels that participating in the event for the first time has helped her realize just how much support she, and other international students, have on campus.

“Many international students were feeling scared with the executive order and I think that this is a good event for us to all come together and support one another,” Torrillas said.

Torrillas added that the Ethnic Arts Festival improved her relationship with other students.

“It helped me realize just how little people know about different countries,” Torrillas said. “A lot of people mix up countries when they are talking to international students. It’s not offensive or anything like that because they just don’t know and have a genuine curiosity.”

Xavier Conzet (‘19) | Chips
Entisar Kedir (‘19) and Yeasbira Bekele (‘19) represent Ethiopia.

This was Assistant Director of the Diversity Center Michelle Boike’s first year organizing the festival. Her new idea for this year was to change the venue to the CFA and serve food at the same time as the festival.

“I thought what I would do this year is try to put the food and tabling together because it creates a different atmosphere,” Boike said. “You get to look at some tables, socialize, and grab a bite to eat.”

Boike believes that the Ethnic Arts Festival is an opportunity for students and community members to learn about other countries and cultures they may not have known much about before.

“All of this is happening to create a space where we can appreciate the diverse people on our campus, and it creates a chance for people to showcase their love for their culture,” Boike said.

The Ethnic Arts Festival ended with  a show in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL). Students performed dances, tradition songs, poems, and skits related to their different countries.

Attendees Troy Downey (‘20) and Leo Herbach (‘20) both felt the festival was a success.

“The singers were amazing, the emcees were friendly and funny, and the dancing was spot on,” Downey said. “This festival really made me see how valuable diversity is.”   

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