In the spirit of the Asian Arts Festival, the mailroom of George Washington Hall could hardly be recognized as students blasted K-Pop music under bright streamers, surrounded by the diverse aromas of the Asian Arts Bazaar.
“The Bazaar is an excellent way to showcase one of the most prominent parts of a culture — its food! Restaurants are, in my experience, the most common form of cultural assimilation. The Asian Arts Bazaar creates a market air and also allows students to identify with a culture,” said Aneesh Ashutosh ’15, a coordinator on the Asian Arts Committee.
The Bazaar presented a wide array of options from many cultures, including rich mango pudding from China and yogurt-like mango lassi from India.
One of the most interesting dishes was empanadas from the Philippines, sold by the Southeast Asian (SEA) Club. Resembling large dumplings, the fried pastries were filled with a delicious vegetable mixture.
“Basically, the Philippines is an ex-Spanish colony. They’re called empanadas, which is a Spanish name, because of the Spanish influence on the Philippines in the mid-1800s,” said Claire Jacobson ’15, a board member of SEA.
Many of the foods provided students with connections to their own traditions. Xin Wen ’15 focused on bringing home-made, authentic Chinese dishes, which included Chinese fried rice, a savory mixture of vegetables, ham and other ingredients.
Many other students appreciated the nostalgic familiarity the food provided. “It tastes like home!” said Karissa Kang ’17.
The Bazaar also gave participants the chance to experience cultural arts while they enjoyed the food. Some students were determined to master the traditional Japanese kendama toy, while another table displayed an arrangement of ingredients, challenging participants to create their own spring roll.
Another highlight of the Bazaar was the henna, or “mehndi,” station. Student henna artists drew intricate designs on participants, who were able to choose from a slideshow of various patterns ranging from a small design on their hand to dyed drawings entwining on their forearms.
“[Henna]’s very significant in traditions because it is supposed to beautify the bride in weddings…. It’s a really cool part of Indian culture since it is so accessible,” said Mihika Sridhar ’16.
The Bazaar helped inform students about the complexities of Asian culture.
“When I was younger, I thought all Asians were grouped into one category. I was very, very wrong, and coming here has helped me realize how many different Asian cultures there are, and how they’re not all the same. They’re actually drastically different,” said Nicole Durrett ’17.