By: IZZA JATALA
People arriving for the International Food Festival could smell all sorts of deliciousness as they were promptly handed a plate and tableware and guided toward the seating area.
All different kinds of food and all different kinds of people came together to celebrate a day of diversity on the campus of IU South Bend.
The International Food Festival hosted by the International Student Organization (ISO) took place last Saturday, April 5, at the University Grill.
“With each dish people try they can learn a little about what that country represents through the food,” said Ngaatendwe Mantiziba, ISO club secretary and event organizer.
The event showcased cuisines, cultural dances and a cultural fashion show from all over the world.
About 20 different countries were represented: Germany, France, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Malawi, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Benin, China and Vietnam, to name a few.
About 70 students participated in the event as either cooks, fashion models or running activity stations. Nearly 200 people came to experience a day of international awareness and appreciation.
To kick things off, the Middle Eastern Dance students danced their way to the stage and showcased five back-to-back performances.
Aside from the performances, the event also had a henna station set up as well as a children’s station for face painting and coloring.
Then finally it was time to feast. People piled on exotic item after item and conversed with the food preparer about the different dishes they would be trying, some for the first time.
“Nothing brings people together more than food,” Mantiziba said.
She said she was happy to see people having fun trying food while mixing and mingling.
“I’m very proud of us right now. We know this is a chance for everyone to experience a different culture and a different lifestyle,” Mantiziba said.
Linda Plata, IUSB student and cook of Costa Rican cuisine at the event ,said they prepared empanadas [plantains], which had beans and cheese inside.
“It’s been a really fun experience, I didn’t realize how much diversity we had on campus,” Plata said, “All the food here was excellent but I think my favorite was the meat pastry from Palestine.”
Some of the other dishes offered included items like samosas from Malawi, spiced rice from Ghana, dumplings from China and classic apple pie from the United States.
A few more performances took place while people sat and ate.
Children dancers representing Russia, China’s Yu Li performing a Chinese pop song, and Benin African dancers all performed, and then it was time for the fashion show.
Starting with Nepal and ending with Ivory Coast, every garment worn told its own story about its cultural origins.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far, a really great atmosphere too. I’m excited to walk on stage for the fashion show,” Kaweme Mg’Amdwe, an IUSB student, said while adjusting the strap of her maroon and purple patterned knee length dress.
“I’m wearing a Chitenge, it’s a fashion dress from Zambia, but it is quite common in other African nations,” she said.
Each fashion showcase also provided music from that country which added to the overall experience of sampling another culture.
Mantiziba said she hopes people will take what they learn from events like this pass it along to others and to help realize the idea that, “being different is a beautiful thing.”
“I think people can gain awareness from events like the International Food Festival. They can expand their perspectives and worldviews. I know most see this event as just about food and entertainment but it also show people, who may not be globally aware, a different side to life and the way people live it across the world,” said Mantiziba.