Sunday April 7, Minnesota state University, Mankato held its annual International Festival titled “Fusion and Inclusion”. The event was organized to celebrate diversity in our community and experience different cultural exploration.
The festival kicked off with a flag parade within the Centennial Student Union, which later assembled on stage in the Ballroom. The flag bearers stayed stationary throughout the opening ceremony which included a prayer from Hamdi Elnuzahi and a welcoming address from Dr. Anne Dahlman and Mike Laven.
They encouraged the audience to explore and communicate with people from other cultures. It also emphasized the importance of the festival which has a strong historic relevance and the continuous impact the international community has brought to Mankato. This followed with Dr. Wayne Allen giving a testimony and honoring with a presentation of flowers for Grand Marshal Dr. Jackie Vieceli of her wonderful work in the Department of Government and her continuous gracious acceptance of international cultures. They also congratulated her on her publication with the inclusion of global issues.
There was also a testimony by a student to honor Pat Lueck who have served the MNSU community for 12 years by showing respect and love to every individual, irrespective of their cultural backgrounds. A slideshow of national fun-facts was projected in the background throughout the festival and a standing ovation was held with the exit of the flags.
The opening ceremony concluded with a Chinese lion dance accompanied with percussion instruments to bring good luck and fortune while showcasing their culture.
The festival continued with an African drumming performance and workshop by an artist with a stage name Brother Ghana. He taught about 20 people simultaneously how to beat the African drum. He was extremely welcoming and his methods were effective and sequential with counting and explanations. He also gave individual tutees an opportunity to express themselves independently and taught some amazing African dances.
There were other performances in the Ballroom, like a Moroccan tray belly dance by Satori Violet. Everett Smithson, a blue vibe music group, performed a New Orleans centric style music which featured drums, guitars, harmonica, vocals and the accordion concertinas.
The festival was very eventful and showcased performances at simultaneous times in the Ballroom, Ostrander and the Hearth Lounge. Performances at the Ostrander included a very beautiful and fluid sword dance by Sherazade Patrice Hundstad, a traditional Nepali dance by Senha Shakya, a beautiful rendition of “All I Want” by Kodaline performed by Rabin Burlakoti and Pooja Gurung.
Then a humor filled and interactive discussion with Kaab, who talked about his cultural experiences with traffic, weather, people, ice fishing and hunting in comparison with his home country Pakistan. Christian Mayala performed a popular Hindi song. Yohanis Ferede from Ethiopia performed a hip-hop dance.
Steven and Udu Ovraiti, a band of brothers, performed with a musical keyboard and their amazing vocals with a cover to a Nigerian song “Uyo Meyo” and “Jealous” by Labrinth, and an original. Afterwards, Patsy O’Brien performed an Irish folk music with guitar and an outstanding and impactful storytelling style.
Subsequently, a Twin Cities based group named Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli, which means warrior of the first cactus flower, performed a Tenochica traditional dance that has strong historic significance of about 1000 years and have been passed down generations. It was a very upbeat and energetic dance that expresses their way of life, danced in their traditional attires and accompanied with a drummer.
The performance in the Ostrander Auditorium concluded with a musical group named Urban Flavor who performed a soul, R&B, jazz and funk music which included the usage of musical instruments like the saxophone, guitar, drum, flute and piano. The group made emphasis on the bond of a family they have built in music and related it to a form of expressing their struggles. They performed a beautiful cover of “What’s Happening Brother” by Marvin Gaye and “One Love” by Bob Marley, along with some originals.
In the Hearth Lounge, student bands like Metsys and the Elements were given an opportunity to showcase their amazing talents through their performances. It also featured a student dance group named Lit Bros and Greg Herriges who performed a mix of progressive world music.
There was an also a planned event for kids to explore culture from different part of the world in the upstairs level of the CSU. The room contained booths from Africa, India, Asia, East Asia and the Middle East. They had fun and educating activities like face painting, a popular west African Ludo board game, bead making, Holi festival, terracotta Diya lamp making, coloring books, chop-stick challenge, Mongolian puzzles, Shagai bone dine, Ramadan lantern and Egyptian jewelry craft. The movie “Moana” was also playing with popcorn for guests.
A silent auction was held to help raise money for future International Festivals, the Endowment Scholarship and for MNSU students. The auction featured items like décor, clothes, beverages, arts and crafts and other artifacts.
With all the amazing and diverse performances, there were also food from different cultural groups presented by MNSU student organizations, which gave them an opportunity to make money for their groups. The food court featured delicious delicacies like stuffed potato chops, Mango Lassi, steamed Momos with sauce, fried plantain with crispy chicken, hibiscus tea, teriyaki chicken, kimchi hot dogs, gyros, pastry pies, wontons, Coca-Cola chicken-wings, boba tea, and many more.
In the lower level of the CSU, the festival gave opportunity for RSOs and community organizations to table and provide information regarding what they represent like, YMCA Mankato, Fair Trade, AFS Next and study abroad programs, MNSU services, etc.
When asked, Jacy Fry, Director of International Student Services, what she hoped was achieved through the event, her response was, “I hope the Mankato community took the opportunity to meet our international students, learn more about their cultures and where they are from, sample some of the delicious food and see them for the neighbors they are!”
Header photo by John Shrestha | MSU Reporter.