Festival of Nations showcases global cultures

Elizabeth Cook

Thousands of people gathered at the St. Paul RiverCentre this weekend to see cultural performances, eat food from different nations and shop in an international bazaar.

The International Institute of Minnesota presented the 73rd annual Festival of Nations, which showcased more than 90 ethnic groups from around the world.

Exhibits filled with pictures, everyday items, art, clothing and jewelry represented the different cultures. For example, puppets filled the Czechoslovakian exhibit.

“Puppets started in the 12th century to pass along traditions and entertain people,” said Judy Aubrecht, a member of the Czech & Slovak Sokol Minnesota organization.

The puppets represent people who provide services, such as teachers and bakers.

The Mexican booth had a painting of Cuauhtemoc and Malinche, two people in love from different tribes. Their love was forbidden, and Malinche poisoned herself, and Cuauhtemoc stabbed himself.

Their story is shown through two volcanoes, one that looks like a sleeping woman and the other resembling a man hunched over from stabbing himself, said Socorro Herrera and Sarah Kettelkamp, two representatives from the Hispanic ministry at Hosanna Lutheran Church.

Across the room, the Ethiopian booth depicted daily life in the country. The display included colorful clothing, a “twaf,” which is a candle used in religious ceremonies, a drum, which is also used in “church music,” and a “mosab,” which is used to eat dishes together, said Tizita Atnafu, a volunteer for the event.

“The most important part is the coffee ceremony,” she said.

The coffee ceremony is the first thing to take place when guests enter an Ethiopian person’s home.

In Ethiopia, there are approximately 90 tribes.

“Lots of cultures live in unity together,” Atnafu said.

The Chinese booth’s focus was around rejuvenation, healing and positive energy through acupuncture, Chinese herbs, feng shui, tai chi and Tui Na massage.

Andrew Hong, who was working at the booth, said the five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water – can heal “bad feelings.”

University student Anne DeBeau-Melting said she loves working for the festival.

“I’ve been volunteering here for the last 20 years,” she said.

Dance and music performances also made up a large portion of the event.

The Slovakian dancers performed choreographed traditional dances. Dressed in traditional clothing, the men wore white pants and white shirts with black vests and black boots, and the women wore skirts of different colors.

University student Victoria Piorek said she has been attending the festival for years and is a Polish dancer who performs at the event.

“It’s fun, good entertainment,” she said. “I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to learn about their background. You can eat and shop your way around the world.”