Asian Heritage Month fest celebrates diversity, draws community

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By: Mira Costello


    If you were born and bred here in South Bend, chances are that you’ve never seen a Chinese hammered dulcimer or played a Japanese Taiko drum. You may never have even tried sushi. In that case, you’re lucky to be an IU South Bend student – because our campus is home to an annual Asian Heritage Month celebration, where you can hear those instruments, try new foods, learn about various Asian cultures and more.

  On April 15 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the University Grill, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of Student Life hosted the twenty-first annual Asian Heritage festival. The event was open to IU South Bend community members and the public at no cost. 

   Tammy Fong-Morgan is a World Languages professor who serves on the Asian Heritage Month celebration committee, and she acted as a master of ceremonies at the event. Fong-Morgan explained the importance of the celebration.

   “It is decades of commitment of this campus to celebrating, in a welcoming and respectful way, the diversity of the community,” she said. “It’s a little-known event for some people – they don’t realize the richness of the Asian community in the Michiana area, and that our public institution of IU South Bend has been a part of that for quite some time.”

   Throughout the night, performances highlighting various cultural art forms, especially Japanese, Chinese and Indian, were center stage. Pictured, you can see a group of dancers performing “beloved dancing Natarajan,” a tribute to Nataraja, the Hindu goddess of dance; Ben Abdnour, who lived in China with his family, playing the Chinese hammered dulcimer; and a group from Michigan Hiryu Daiko playing selections on Taiko drums.

    Guests could also visit booths stationed around the Grill, which included activities such as learning Japanese calligraphy, practicing origami and picking up informational pamphlets about Taiwanese culture. Aside from the performers, some students, including those who served food to guests, wore traditional garments. 

   The event planners and student servers ensured that no guest went hungry – with a buffet of different rices, curries, sushi, noodles, chicken dishes, Asian-style vegetables and more, plates were stacked high. After dinner, attendees could enjoy tea prepared in a traditional ceremony, cake and ice cream, Chinese candies and even Krispy Kreme donuts. 

   Fong-Morgan also emphasized that the event requires year-round planning and effort, and that the committee is grateful for those who use the donation box at the event to help the celebration continue annually. 

   And if you’re hesitant about coming next year because it might be out of your comfort zone, don’t worry – they had forks, not just chopsticks!

Photos // Mira Costello

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