Student groups celebrate culture

The ninth annual Cultural Celebration focused on getting students to interact.

The Chinese American Student Association performs a dance routine Friday in the Great Hall of Coffman Union.

The Chinese American Student Association performs a dance routine Friday in the Great Hall of Coffman Union.

Molly Novak

 

Shouts of excitement greeted guests as they walked through the archway of a cultural colosseum.

Friday night, 15 multicultural greek chapters along with a few other multicultural student organizations held their annual Cultural Celebration event in Coffman Union’s Great Hall in a display of dance, games, music and food.

The event’s theme, “The Colosseum,” was chosen to make the audience feel like they were in a historical venue of entertainment.

“We wanted our audience to get lost in our theme,” said Edwin Bonfil, coordinator of this year’s celebration.

The smell of gyros, pad thai chicken, churros and hummus filled the room as guests walked around carrying plates of their favorites.

The food was free, but guests had to participate in the booth’s cultural activities in order to earn their meal tickets.

Along with a theme that changes each year, Bonfil said the presentation has also changed. In previous years, the event mainly featured performances by groups as students would sit down and watch. Beginning last year, the event’s leadership decided to transition to more student interaction.

“We focused on activities that encourage participation and movement,” Bonfil said.

The goal was for guests to take away something about a particular culture, said Abdul Abdirahman, president of Sigma Lambda Beta –– one of the fraternities hosting the event.

Despite moving away from a performance-based show, there were still “attention grabbing” performances geared for an active audience.

A member of one group shouted “S-I-G-M-A” to start off their step performance, stomping and clapping in rhythm.

“The best way to learn [another culture] is to get active and get involved,” Bonfil said.

Booths lined the walls of the hall, allowing participants to get active with specific cultural student organizations.

 “Demonstration is boring right now. This offers a chance to show it in a different way,” Bonfil said.

Members of the Somali Student Association were at the celebration to show their culture and teach others one of their dances, said senior Hassan Osman, an SSA representative at the event.

Other groups played games to get the audience active in the cultures.

The Chinese-American Student Association showcased a Chinese-style hacky sack game at their booth. Played in Chinese schools, the game uses a colorful feather shuttlecock instead of a bean-filled sack, said CASA President Mason Trang.

“We just want to bring a snapshot of our culture, something you don’t see in your typical day at school,” Trang said.

Bonfil said the celebration benefits the student groups because it exposes the University of Minnesota to their culture.

“This event gives us a chance to open eyes about traditions and the similarities and differences between cultures,” Bonfil said.

SSA senior Ralia Hussein said the group was there to help “break away from stereotypes and portray a rich culture with beautiful people.”

Bonfil said students often stay within their cliques and are unexposed to other cultures. The celebration, he said, allows groups to spread the word through collaboration.

The event is “different than any other you will see on campus” since it focuses on audience participation, Bonfil said. It draws not only University students but community members as well.

Nohman Baysudee, a University graduate, said the increasing diversity keeps him coming back every year.

“I think it’s really cool showing all the cultures,” said Senna Elbakari, who came to the event. “People are able to represent where they came from.”

The celebration ended with a representative of each organization leading a surprise dance to “The Cupid Shuffle” on stage. The audience joined in –– it was a great way for all the cultures to come together, Abdirahman said.

 “The event stays in people’s minds, no matter how successful it is,” Bonfil said.