Festival gives taste of culture, diversity



With Chinese dance troupes and a Bulgarian egg-painting workshop, a group of international students and organizations invited Yale and the New Haven community to Commons on Saturday for the inaugural International Cultural Festival.

The free event, which ran from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., featured a collection of food, art, information and workshops from over 25 countries. Each participating organization sponsored a table and many put on cultural performances or workshops — from a Haitian poetry reading to a Japanese drumming workshop.

The student organizations found a wide variety of ways to represent their cultures. The Brazil-Portugal Club’s table featured tropical juice and traditional Brazilian soda, while the Butterfly Chinese Dance Troupe, an affiliate of the Association of Chinese Student Scholars at Yale, put on a performance with several women dressed in traditional costumes. Postdoctoral fellow Brenda Wu, the dance troupe’s coordinator, said she thought it was a good way to educate the community about Chinese culture while also gaining more recognition as a dance troupe.

“It’s our contribution to the community and diversity here, which is really a strength of Yale,” she said. “And we’re a new troupe, so if we get recognized, maybe we’ll be invited to regional competitions.”

Wu’s was not the only group trying to garner more support. The Republic of Haiti, a small group on campus with only seven members, came to the event for the primary purpose of publicizing itself and recruiting interested members. Jihan Mercier ’05, a group coordinator, said the Haitian resources are currently so limited near campus that they had to get their food and decorations from Haitians in New York, who Mercier said were excited about the group.

“Most of our stuff is from the Haitian consulate,” Mercier said. “They prepared everything for us and were so happy about the prospects of our organization that they drove it all out here.”

Sharon Butler, the resource coordinator at the Office of International Students and Scholars and one of the event’s organizers, said the cultural festival started last fall as just an idea at a meeting of international students. Hoping to increase international awareness on campus, many students began to organize the event and find funding in January. The idea eventually grew to encompass the performances, workshops and the photo contest featured in the middle of Commons.

Ultimately, the funding came from OISS, the McDougal Graduate Student Life Center, the Yale Center for Area and International Studies, the Yale Graduate and Professional Student Senate, the Office of the President, and the Office of the Secretary. OISS Director Ann Kuhlman said all the offices contributed approximately equal sums to meet the final cost, which was between $6,500 and $7,000.

“If any one of them had pulled out, we couldn’t have had the cultural festival,” Kuhlman said.

Butler said the organizers hope the cultural festival will become an annual tradition.

“It’s a great way to show diversity and culture,” Butler said “We hope it’ll be a chance to gather everyone together to learn about each other.”

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