Rowan Asian Cultural Festival exposes students to Asian traditions

Members of Three Aksha perform a traditional Bharatanatyam dance on stage at RAH Asian Cultural Festival in the Student Center Pit on April 20th, 2017. -Photo Editor/Nicole Mingo

The colorful traditions of Asian culture were on full display last Thursday during the annual Asian Cultural Festival.

Working in conjunction with Rowan After Hours (RAH), Rowan’s Asian Cultural Association welcomed a wide variety of performers from both on and off campus.

Senior accounting major and president of the Asian Cultural Association, Christine Wong, helped organize the event for several years.

“We start planning this event months in advance,” Wong said. “We have a number of performers that we bring in from other schools, from our own student groups and some professional performers. Overall, we like to provide an exposure to diversity through Asian dance, music, martial arts, drumming and pretty much everything we can.”

The first act to perform – a spoken word duo called Yellow Rage – returned for the fifth time to host the event and perform. Comprised of Catzie Vilayphonh and Michelle Myers, the group focuses on a wide number of issues faced by modern Asian-Americans.

“The various themes we focus on include issues of identity, cultural appropriation and sexual fetishization of Asian and Asian-American women,” Myers said.

The duo performed three poems, one of which incorporated audience participation for call-and-response lines. Myers and Vilayphonh alternated lines in each poem, smoothly working off one another for forceful and powerful displays of emotion.

“We met at a creative writing workshop and are seventeen years strong,” Vilayphonh said, crediting this long artistic partnership for the duo’s compatibility.

Next to take the stage was Hoh Daiko, a taiko drumming group.

Originating in Japan, the art of taiko drumming involves several large wooden drums, with five for this performance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Three audience members were invited onstage to learn the art of this Japanese tradition. Each was given a pair of drumsticks, called bachi, and instructed on how to raise the arms and hit the drums in rhythm.

Sophomore mathematics major Shayla Mashud was one of the selected participants.

“I’ve always been interested in drumming, like with drum lines in middle school,” she said. “I’ve never seen taiko drumming before, so I didn’t really know what to do.”

Later in the night, members of Rowan’s Karate and Self Defense club performed katas, which are martial arts moves practiced solo or in pairs. The group also showcased board-breaking and weapons demonstrations.

Senior civil and environmental engineering major and president of the club Gary Liedtka-Bizuga noted the “very well-known root going through Asian culture” of martial arts, with different forms originating from Korea, India, China and Japan.

“It’s nice to be able to highlight some cool aspects that maybe not everyone knows about, or only sees through movies,” he said. “We try to make it more approachable by having things that beginners could do.”

Other acts included Indian dance groups, Korean singing and Asian instrumental performances on an ocarina and zither.

Aside from the performances, the Asian Cultural Association also provided attendees with exposure to various Asian cuisines, including a Japanese candy called mochi and a Vietnamese dish called chicken and tofu Pad Thai.

A make-your-own Sushi bar allowed students to try their hand at rolling ingredients into their own rice and seaweed wrap. Bubble tea, a Taiwanese beverage, was available to help wash down the food.

Freshman history major Quinn Cowan appreciated the breadth of the event’s cultural diversity.

“When you think of Asia, you mainly think of China, Korea and Japan,” he said. “This event got me to look at the Southern Asian countries, like Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.”

For comments/questions about this story, email or tweet @TheWhitOnline.