The Journal, University of Illinois at Springfield Weekly Campus Newspaper

Diversity takes center stage at annual International Festival

October 28, 2009
By John Tienken
Staff Reporter

Students, faculty, and local community members came out in numbers to the 32nd Annual International Festival this past Sunday.  The Public Affairs Center played host to the event as Student groups and central Illinois societies representing ethnic and cultural groups from around the world set up to showcase the unique aspects of each of their cultures.

Shwetankh Ruia speaks with Jeannie Migneaud

Photo by John Tienken

Indian Student Organization president Shwetankh Ruia speaks with Jeannie Migneaud Capranica, Diversity Center program manager at Sunday’s International Festival.

Amongst the basement conference rooms of PAC, continents were divided into four regional zones namely Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas and the kiosks were scattered accordingly. Each room was flooded with new activities and performances starting and ending to create a nonstop atmosphere of cultural immersion.

In the Africa pavilion, a local troupe of drummers trained in the African tradition played on colorful drums with canvas headings that with each pat of the hand resonated throughout the room. The beats they provided gave the energy to the melodic African accompaniment played in the background.

the Moksha Dance Company

Photo by John Tieken

Members of the Moksha Dance Company, a student organization, perform Bollywood style dancing.

Over in the Americas, the Organization for Latin American Students (OLAS) hosted an arts and crafts extravaganza where hundreds of colorful tissue paper strips were strewn across the table, ready to be glued to homemade piñatas. As children and students crowded around that table, others learned about Peru from two local women born and raised in Lima, the capital city of Peru.

Leaving the eclectic strumming of the Latin guitar, people flooded to watch the various dancers and performers from Celtic dancing to a mix of hip hop. Newly formed on-campus dance group Moksha Dance Company displayed their style of modern Indian dancing.

Larmarco Bell, a dancer in the African room, said it was his first time performing. Bell said he was excited for the chance to perform because the dance he performed was African.

Drummers in the African room

Photo by John Tienken

Drummers in the African room at the International fest play canvas drums.

While the performances showcased the immense talent of the dancers, it didn’t happen all at once. Bell said his group practiced for the performance since the beginning of the academic year. To make sure the performance went off without a hitch Bell said, "It took a little sweat, a little tears from everyone and a lot of hard work.”

The dancers were certainly not alone in the hard work and sacrifice. Reid Johnson, a student worker at International Services, said organizing the event took countless hours and “a lot a lot of work.” To get the event and the myriad of groups to all come together and pull off another successful International Festival.

Reid said the purpose of the International Festival is to bring people together, to have fun while learning and to broaden people’s understanding. Children of the Montessori School of Springfield echoed Reid's sentiments in song at the Festival. The preschoolers sang the following lines in five different languages, laying out the larger theme of the festival: "Light a candle for me, Light a candle for you, That our wish for world peace will one day come true."