CelebrAsian: Embracing Asian Culture, Heritage, and Identity

With Chinese and Korean pop music playing from the speakers in the background, laughter and chatter filled the George Washington Hall mailroom last Saturday as members of the Andover community strolled from table to table, buying student-made Asian food. From homemade dumplings to crispy samosas and traditional cultural music to spoken word poetry, the CelebrAsian Food Bazaar and Talent Show featured traditional Asian cuisine and student performances in celebration of Asian culture.

“[The Food Bazaar is] a great opportunity to have the different [groups under Asian Society]… have a chance to not only raise funds for their club programming, but also share their culture with the rest of campus. I especially love how all students and faculty on campus get a chance to taste foods that they wouldn’t easily get a chance to sample,” said Adrian Khactu, Instructor in English and faculty advisor of Asian Society.

The Food Bazaar and Talent Show were a part of the 28th annual CelebrAsian festival, which aims to promote awareness and appreciation of Asian culture on campus.

“I’m definitely really happy because, as an Asian myself walking around and living in Andover, you definitely don’t hear a lot of Asians speaking out, for either their own culture or for their own voice, and if you can see a lot of Asians coming together just having fun, being willing to accept who they are and hanging out with similar people, it’s just something that I want to see more on campus,” said Navin Kheth ’18, co-head of Asian Society.  As noted by Saadiya Lakhani ’17, member of Indo-Pak, a unique aspect of the event was the diversity of the students and faculty members who attended.

“I think [the event is] good considering the fact that, especially in such a small place, you can see a lot of diversity here, so it’s fun. And when people appreciate the food that you bring and the culture that you come from, it feels really good because then you can share your happiness with them, and what’s more happy than having a good meal with people who didn’t know about it and now they appreciate it,” said Lakhani.

One popular dish at the event was homemade dumplings, made and sold by Andover Chinese Student Association. The dumplings had both vegetarian and meat fillings and were served with soy sauce.

“All of the food that I’ve tasted thus far is absolutely delicious, and I’m glad I came right at [the start of the event] to have first pick, but I’d say probably the dumplings [are my favorite]. I think the pork dumplings are delicious. I’ve always really liked dumplings, but [these] don’t taste manufactured. They just taste homemade. You can feel and taste the love in them,” said Chioma Ugwonali ’20.

Indo-Pak’s table, which had an array of chicken and vegetable samosas and mango lassi, also offered henna tattooing, an Indian tradition of temporarily dying skin, as a way to share another aspect of the Indian culture.

“It’s really cool how I don’t think that there’s any other type of art that temporarily covers parts of your body and how it can vary what goes on your skin and where it weaves around your hand. Both girls who were doing the henna had different types of henna that they liked. One girl did flowers then another girl could do snakes. It’s just cool. It shows me the beauty that comes with their culture and how they express themselves,” said Ria Vieira ’19.

After the Food Bazaar, the talent show, held in Kemper Auditorium, featured a variety student performances.

As one of the acts, Mangai Sundaram ’19 performed a song of the Carnatic genre, a traditional South Indian musical style. The song, which was titled “Gamganapathe” in praising of the Hindu Lord Ganesha, began at a slow pace as Sundaram’s voice echoed over the steady humming of a shruti box, an instrument which helps maintain the tune of the piece, before climaxing into a line of rapidly articulated lyrics.

“I started singing Carnatic music when I was six years old. Because it’s from South India and both my parents are from there, it’s been a part of our family, so I’ve just done it from a young age,” said Sundaram.

As the penultimate act of the talent show, Wendy Wu ’20 performed the Chinese song “Bu Bu Gao” on the erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument with two strings and a bow played in between the strings. The piece started with an upbeat tune before rising in pitch and transitioning into a melody of quick trills, marking the final solo piece of the night. 

“I really liked Wendy’s performance. I thought that the classical style of Chinese music was a lot more free flowing than Western music, and I really enjoyed seeing a different type of music performed,” said Christina Cho ’19.