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Ethnic Arts Festival: Does the learning stop here?

Minh Anh Nguyen (‘20) shares information about Vietnam with Geoffrey Dyck (‘18) at the Ethnic Arts Festival.

Minh Anh Nguyen (‘20) shares information about Vietnam with Geoffrey Dyck (‘18) at the Ethnic Arts Festival.

Kristen Wuerl (‘18) | Chips

Kristen Wuerl (‘18) | Chips

Minh Anh Nguyen (‘20) shares information about Vietnam with Geoffrey Dyck (‘18) at the Ethnic Arts Festival.

Kristen Wuerl, Staff Writer

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On Saturday, March 3 students proudly displayed clothing, food and art from their countries of heritage and origin in the Ethnic Arts Festival. The Diversity Center hosted the event which started with a fair and buffet in the Center for the Arts (CFA) and concluded with the flag procession and performances in the evening in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL).

“The point of the festival is to show how our people live and what’s going on [in our home countries],” Communications Assistant Samson Masanga (‘20) said. “We want our conversations to be organic. The root of the festival is to show people that even though we have many apparent differences we also share a lot of things. In the end, we see that we’re not that different after all.”

Several international students said the Ethnic Arts Festival is a good introduction for Luther students and community members to learn more about different cultures throughout the world.

“I think the [Ethnic Arts Festival] is a great opportunity for everyone to come together and celebrate cultures for at least one time in an entire year,” Elisabeth Do Rosario Vicente (‘20) said. “Although you’re not necessarily representing your whole country perfectly [during the festival], it gives you a chance to share what your culture is and to let people know more about it. It’s a very interesting approach.”

President of the International Students and Allies Association (ISAA) Zakithi Nkosi (‘19) believes that the Ethnic Arts Festival represents students’ countries to the extent that they present them.

“I give as much information about [Swaziland] as possible and try to paint a good enough picture of it, but someone else might do it differently,” Nkosi said. “I think the performance aspect really illuminates the whole festival. It gives people a physical example of what’s going on.”

Kristen Wuerl (‘18) | Chips
Rana Alananbeh (‘21) does henna at the Ethnic Arts Festival.

The performances and flag procession occur in the evening after the country fair and buffet. This year, the performance featured nine acts. These acts ranged from a sentimental singing duet about goodbyes between Jenny Woods (‘18) and Belal Krayem (‘18), to various traditional dances, to a Vietnamese fashion show. Vicente performed in a dance from her home country, Timor-Leste.

“Performing makes me happy,” Vicente said. “When you’re performing, you show [the audience] how everything is done, and [the audience] gets more insight into what everything is.”

Although some students believed that the Ethnic Arts Festival represented their countries well, other students felt differently.

“I can’t promise that [the festival] will give people enough of an experience of my home,” Masanga said. “If you were to go to Kenya, it would be different than if I were to go. The festival kind of gives you a flavor but you can never give someone the experience [of actually being there]. There’s only so much I can do. You have to see it [for yourself].”

Masanga thought that creating a workshop could be beneficial for students and community members to learn more about global cultures.

“Doing a regular workshop talking about countries in depth [would be kind of similar to the Ethnic Arts Festival], but it would… keep it fresh,” Masanga said. “If we could have a bimonthly activity that talks about one country and its current state or huge headlines, I think that would be continuing the ethnic arts conversation.”

Nkosi and Vicente also wanted to see changes to the festival.

“My first year the festival was in the Union,” Nkosi said. “Moving it to the CFA made it less accessible to students. I wish more Luther students would come, especially people who are interested in other cultures and study-abroad opportunities. It’s always so nice to learn something about another country that you can’t visit.”

Vicente agreed that not many Luther students come — especially in comparison to Decorah community members — and attributed the low student attendance to the advertising of the festival.

“Students are not very aware of the festival,” Vicente said. “I think it should be advertised even more on campus and in Decorah. This event is very important and only occurs once a year. These cultures have been brought to Luther and they should be seen and appreciated.”

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