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March 3, 2000
Volume 37, No. 12


Thousands flock to UI Field House to 'connect culturally'
From Old Capitol to the nation's capital
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Thousands flock to UI Field House to 'connect culturally'

As part of the international, multi-media fashion show, a group of Chinese children perfoms a traditional Chinese folk dance. Photo by Rex Bavousett.

The talking and pounding sound of the Yahoo drummers. The bagpipes of the Scottish Highlanders. A massive dance fired up by the music of the Orquesta de Jazz y Salsa Alto Maiz.

These were some of the sights and sounds that spiced up the 11th annual Cultural Diversity Festival. Warren Slebos, organizing committee co-chair, said the events attracted more than 4,000 people to the UI Field House on Feb. 20. This year’s theme was "Getting Culturally Connected."

The festival attracted everyone from UI faculty, staff, and students to members of the community. More than 50 programs promoted both domestic and international diversity during the five-hour event.

UI law professor Nicholas Johnson came to the festival with several generations of family members including his wife, two granddaughters, and a great-granddaughter.

"The work of all of us at the University should be focusing on diversity and globalization and the impact of all cultures on our learning as well as the impact that we have globally on other cultures," Johnson says.

Education graduate student Krishna Das, who is also the international liaison for the Office of International Education, College of Education, said he enjoyed the "vibrancy of the atmosphere, the solidarity, and the amount of diversity, which is fascinating."

Das added his hometown of Bombay has an international flavor thanks to the students who go there to study, but he "had never experienced diversity to such a large extent."

While admitting that there is no set definition for diversity, "just the same way there is no precise definition for ‘human rights,’" Das said these concepts are key in educating a progressive human being.

"If a child is introduced to diversity from an early age, I believe it does broaden his or her perspective," he said.

Waiting their turn to step out at the fashion show are members of the African Women's Association and their children, dressed in tradtitional clothing of Kenya, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Photo by Rex Bavousett.

The festival also featured a food fair, an international multi-media fashion show, educational programs and various booths with arts and crafts demonstrated in front of an actively involved audience. Enjoying an American-Indian taco for lunch, UI student Melissa Mohammed’s seven-year-old daughter Aisha said she wanted to hear more about other countries and cultures, and "what happened to some peoples a long time ago in wars."

Iowa-based American-Indian artist Holly Honken brought plaster, paint, and transparencies to her booth at the festival and worked on an artistic project while answering questions from people who stopped by to watch her.

"It’s a little different trying to create art in front of people, but it’s a real joy to be able to talk about how I do it," Honken says. "It’s really about process, and it’s a lot of fun." Honken worked on a layered painting by placing transparencies on top of a Sho Shone photograph, "trying to give it that feeling of a grass-dancer in a desert."

Honken said she felt connected to the culture inherited from her Sho Shone mother and Paiute father, but since she had lived in a Caucasian family in Minnesota since the age of five, she also considered herself influenced by Western culture. She said her art felt like a journey back to her native roots, and she tried to incorporate the feeling of "returning home" in the creative process.

The festival was sponsored by the UI Celebrating Cultural Diversity Committee, the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, and U S West Communications.

Article by Gayane Torossian


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