Arts & Culture / Mosaic / February 4, 2009

I-Fair celebrates culture, sustainability

Hundreds of students and community members stood in a line outside of the Oak Room last Saturday waiting for one of Knox’s largest annual events, the Knox College International Fair. The event was put on by the International Club, and began Saturday, Jan. 31st with the international food fair.

The line stretched around the corner and down the hall all the way to the west doors of Seymour Union.

The doors finally opened at 11:30 a.m., when a scene of organized chaos ensued. Some people had been waiting for as long as an hour and a half. Visitors and students alike moved from table to table to sample the various gustatory offerings.

The Oak Room had been opened up into the Lincoln Room, providing extra table space. The event was festive, with many club members at the ten regional or country tables wearing traditional costumes while they served food.

Ten different countries or regions were represented at the food fair: Poland, Peru (Spanish Club), Harambee (Africa), Korea (Korean Club), Germany (German Club), Japan (Japanese Club), the Hispanic community (Lo Nuestro), China (Chinese Club), Palestine and Syria, and the United States (ABLE).

The favorites of the morning seemed to be the Harambee table with a variety of traditional foods from Africa, Lo Nuestro with chicken flautas, gaucamole, and frijoles, the Korean table serving Jap Chae and Bulgogi, the Polish table serving pirogues, and the ABLE table with fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread, cheesecake, and green Kool-Aid.

Tali Haberkamp tried the flautas and guacamole at Lo Nuestro’s table and thought they were “goodness together.”

“I really like the pirogues,” said senior Sara Patterson.

At the end of the day, the Harambee table received the award for best food.

The majority of plates, cups, and cutlery used were biodegradable, as part of I-Fair’s i-Green theme focused on sustainability and the environment. With the exceptions of limited accessibility to water at the event and the fact that it started a bit behind schedule, the I-Fair food fair seemed to be a success overall.

Following the food fair, the I-Fair booths opened at 1 p.m. in CFA. Over a dozen different countries and organizations were represented at the booths. Hillel Club had a booth discussing the Jewish ideal of “Tikun Olam,” or “repairing the earth,” as well as the holiday of “Tu B’sherat,” or “Arbor Day” generally celebrated by a special Seder. Their board also discussed a variety of initiatives by Israel to benefit the environment and improve sustainability in Israel.

The table for Palestine was set up directly next to Hillel Club. The board detailed many of the environmental problems facing Palestine. The board listed a lack of water and supplies as well as fertile land because of the “apartheid wall.” Junior Bisan Battrawi from Palestine spoke about the difficulties of environmentalism and sustainability there.

“It is very difficult. It’s not the same as here. We don’t pollute as much. People focus more on living than sustainability,” said Battrawi. She said that Palestinians saved electricity and reused things as much as they could because they do not have very much.

Students Without Borders had a booth focused on issues involving the U.S./Mexico border, specifically on pollution caused by border industrialization and job outsourcing. They also had a petition to make a spring break trip to Arizona.

Next to Students Without Borders was the Alliance for Peaceful Action promoting Fair Trade as an alternative business model to help farmers in the third world. They had free samples of Fair Trade chocolate.

India, Pakistan and Nepal joined together to create a single booth highlighting commonalities shared by the three countries. Sophomore Nigam Gandhi discussed the reasons for the three nations combining their efforts for I-Fair booth.

“We’re all part of the same culture and background, the same languages: Hindi, Urdu, and English. We’re all working together to make a more sustainable South Asia,” said Gandhi.

Representatives at the booth spoke about the difficulties facing the three countries as well as gains that they have made in terms of sustainability. There is a strong focus in Nepal on solar power, especially since as much as 50 percent of the population does not have electricity, and most of the new infrastructure and investment is coming from foreign companies.

In India, the focus is on compressed natural gas (CNG), and all the public transit in New Delhi is run using CNG. Another focus is on organic foods.

“In India, organic has always been the case, whereas it’s new here. And they call us a third world country,” said sophomore Miniona Lungalang.

As in India, one of the main focuses of Pakistan is on CNG, although there is also a government lead initiative called the “Clean Drinking Water for All Plan” that has succeeded in increasing the amount of potable water in Pakistan from 42 percent to 70 percent in two years. The booth for the three countries also had a large model of the type of hut that the majority of Indians live in. At the end of the day, the India, Pakistan, and Nepal table was given the award for best booth.

I-Club ran a booth where they distributed copies of this year’s I-Mag which was printed on paper made 100 percent with sustainable resources. Other booths at the I-Fair were China, Germany, Korea, Japan, Sustainability in Galesburg, Amnesty International, KARES, and IVCF.

Kresge Auditorium was completely full at 3:30 p.m. when the I-Fair performances began. The afternoon started with the parade of flags. Each country was announced in alphabetical order, and each country’s representative carried the flag down to the stage, stopping to say “hello” in their native language while the projector displayed information about each nation. Twenty-seven different countries were represented, starting with Afghanistan and ending with Vietnam, followed by Knox’s flag and “Go Prairie Fire. We are Knox!” Each nation received applause as its representative reached the stage.

Following the parade of flags was a brief introduction discussing the I-Fair, performances, and i-Green. The performances began with students representing Nepal backed by electric guitars singing a song in Nepalese while photos of Nepal were shown on the projector screen. Although there were some audio difficulties (recurrent throughout the afternoon), the audience was tolerant and clapped along with the band and the song finished with strong applause.

Japan followed with a traditional 14th century solo dance telling the story of a fisherman and a goddess. The performer wore an orange and white checkered kimono tied with a gold ribbon, a white mask, and carried a silk fan.

Chinese Club followed Japan’s performance with a two-part segment. The first part was a seven person Tai Chi demonstration. Following the Tai Chi demonstration, they presented the Lion Dance. The Lion Dance is a traditional Chinese dance in which two performers work in tandem to move a colorful body puppet of a lion through a series of acrobatic jumps and movements to tell a story. The Lion interacted with its “trainer” as well as the audience. The Lion Dance was chosen as the best performance of the day.

The Chinese performance was followed by dancers from Sri Lanka. The five dancers performed a fusion of two dances, combining a traditional candle dance done at the beginnings of festivals with a stick dance where the dancers interacted with each other using a pair of sticks that were struck with the beats of the music.

Next was India and Pakistan, who performed a fusion dance of Bhangra dance and Indian hip-hop. There were a large number of dancers, and the audience became enthusiastically involved, clapping and cheering along with the music. The India and Pakistan performance was one of the runners-up for best performance.

After India and Pakistan, Harambee had a fashion show displaying women’s dress from all over the African continent. The German Club followed Harambee with a modern day theatrical version of Hansel and Gretel.

The Japanese Club then did another performance, this time a group dance combining a traditional fisherman’s song with pop music.

Harambee and the Arabic Club joined together to perform a fusion dance. Afterwards, Lo Nuestro did a set of salsa dancing. Their performance was a runner-up for the best performance. The performances were concluded by freshman Gu-Zheng, music from China played by LuLu, and a magic act by sophomore Mego Liu.

I-Fair was concluded by a concert by the band Funkadesi. They started at 8:30 p.m. and played until approximately 9:30 p.m., including an encore. There were about 125 people, mostly students, at the concert. The band played a variety of music incorporating Middle Eastern, blues, Indian, and other musical forms. Their audience was enthusiastic, and the majority stood and danced right in front of the stage in Kresge.

Overall, I-Fair 2009 was successful and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Ben Reeves

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