Knox College celebrates its cultures annually with International Fair: a week devoted to ethnic foods, cultural attire, music and dance. Hundreds of students and community members attend and participate throughout the week. A much smaller group of International Club officers and affiliates are behind the scenes making sure events run smoothly.
Fusing cultures through dance
Though junior Adrita Burman worked on the choreography for a Bollywood dance at last year’s I- Fair showcase, she hadn’t intended to do another one this year. But junior and fellow choreographer Sowad Jabin convinced her otherwise. Over winter break, the two Skyped, looked up videos to find which moves they’d like to incorporate and eventually came up with their dance for this year’s showcase: “East meets West.”
Burman, who learned classical Indian dance til the age of 14 and later learned jazz for a year, conceptualized a dance that would bring together multiple elements.
“I’ve been exposed to different dance styles, so I wanted to put that into our dance,” she said.
What the two came up with was a fusion of street jazz, belly dancing and classical Indian techniques, requiring them to think carefully about what sort of costumes would fulfill the needs of all styles involved. Their Western elements required something more fitting and snug, their Eastern, more fluid and flowing.
Aside from the choreographers themselves, the rest of their crew of six had never been trained in Eastern dance. While challenging at times, this did not present problems, according to Burman.
“These people are really enthusiastic, and it’s fun teaching them because they want to learn,” she said.
Crossing culinary borders
Walking into Seymour between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25, visitors met with a line stretching from the doors by the loading dock all the way into the Oak and Lincoln Rooms. This was I-Fair’s food fair, restructured as a dinner this year to allow more members of the Knox and Galesburg community to attend.
International Club’s Junior-at-Large Olaloye Oyedotun orchestrated the event.
“I’m a big food person, everyone knows I love to cook, so they put me in charge,” he said.
This year, it was his plan to shake things up a bit by shifting the meal from lunch to dinner and organizing tables by country. The intended result was what he described as a kind of souk (a Middle Eastern bazaar), with everyone showcasing their culinary traditions.
Oyedotun related how food offers perspective, and how he discovered the connection between his more familiar West African fare, creole and French cuisines that make up Cajun food after he tried it.
“It makes you realize that we’re all interconnected in some way,” he said.
Still, this does not negate culinary diversity.
“It’s very interesting getting the different cultural flavors. Ghana and Nigeria have such similar foods, but at the same time they have little twists on their food that [make] you realize they’re still different foods and different people,” Oyedotun added.
Back in the kitchens during prep night on Thursday, sophomore and president of Korean Club Isaac Lee was about to begin work on a dessert drink typically served during mid-autumn festival celebrations.
His club was also preparing bulgogi, a well-known marinated beef dish with stuffed vegetables inside.
“It’s probably one of the most popular Korean dishes in the world. Many foreigners love this dish, they ask us to make it for them,” said Lee.
Lee grew up eating it every few weeks during his childhood, and was excited to share it with Knox.
“I wouldn’t have done this much cooking if I was in Korea. I want to introduce the food that I’ve been eating to friends that are close to me,” he said.
Struggles behind I-Mag
It was 2:30 p.m. and the magazines still had not arrived from the publisher. The launch party for I-Magazine in Taylor Lounge was less than two hours away.
“I’m going to have to figure out how to present it without the physical magazine,” said senior and Editor-in-Chief Kristine Ilagan, opening a final PDF document of the magazine.
Ilagan and her graphic designer sophomore Nate Moore had spent the weeks leading up to I-Fair feeling some pressure to get it done, but remaining confident that hard copies would be at Knox by Wednesday afternoon before Thursday’s launch.
“We sent [the magazine] two weeks ago, but there were issues with sizing and it takes about ten days for the company to process,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan and Moore were awaiting the 32-page result of four weeks’ work collecting and laying out photography and writing submissions. They chose to use submissions that followed I-Fair’s “Streets” theme.
“When experiencing a culture, the best way is walking down the streets,” Ilagan said.
Although Ilagan had ultimate say over the magazine’s design and content, she chose her friend Moore to serve as graphic designer since she had no editorial experience prior to taking on the magazine.
“I knew having [Moore] on board was for the best. I don’t know how I-Mag would have turned out otherwise,” she said.
Moore’s main contribution to the publication was layout design, creating a template for photos and text submissions to best display the work on each page.
“It was surprising because I and Nate did almost everything in one sitting,” Ilagan said. “In the wee hours of the morning is when all the creativity happens.”
Moore echoed Ilagan’s surprise at how the magazine’s design came together, calling it “a much easier process than I was expecting.”
As for the finished product, that was still up in the air the day of I-Magazine’s scheduled launch. With less than an hour to go, Ilagan burst into Seymour Student Union with the box of I-Magazines direct from the publisher.
“They’re here! Finally!”
“From the moment the email went out over break to this day, there are people signing up to carry flags,” International Club’s Senior at Large Elisa Shields said.
When Shields spoke with TKS before the Flag Parade’s Thursday dress rehearsal, there were still last-minute students signing up to represent a country and a few students having to drop out on late notice. At the time, the total was up to 54 countries, plus the Knox College flag.
“Thank God for Google Docs,” Shields said.
Shields is an American citizen who has spent the last 10 years of her life living in France with her mother. Despite this cultural connection, she left the French flag to another Knox student.
“I couldn’t be in [the parade] or else I couldn’t coordinate it,” she said, putting the finishing touches on the PowerPoint and music playlist she arranged to accompany the event.
The parade was scheduled to take place directly before the I-Fair talent show, and Shields’ main concern was about finishing the procession of 55-plus people in a timely manner for the talent show to begin on time.
Regardless, Shields was happy to coordinate this portion of I-Fair.
“I do feel that I am international, and this week’s events are a great way to realize your ties to other countries,” she said.