Hundreds of students, staff, faculty, and community members crowded the International House’s Assembly Hall this past Sunday for the I-House’s annual Festival of Nations, an event featuring a global mix of food, performance, art, fashion, and music.
“The Festival of Nations has been occurring since the inception of I-House. Its purpose is to give both local and international students an opportunity to really celebrate the world’s cultures by coming together with other members of the University and of the Hyde Park community,” said Symon Ogeto, senior coordinator for marketing and events at the I-House.
This year’s Festival hosted local cuisine, dance, music, and clothing from over 20 nations, including Mexico, Colombia, Spain, Israel, Zimbabwe, Greece, India, Egypt, China, and Brazil.
“[Many of the] people who brought the artwork and food together at the booths are residents of I-House and the other half are students from the university. We used SPIN [Students Promoting Interracial Networks], a brand new RSO that volunteers to do recruiting, to find our performers,” said undergraduate Daniel Morales, secretary of the I-House residents’ council.
Sweet conchas, a variety of Mexican sweet breads, Greek yogurt (known by locals as tzatziki), olives, pita, Catalonian paella, Chinese puff pastries, Celtic barley and peas, and sweet bocadillo vele’o, a Colombian guava paste, were among the foods offered at the festival. Accompanying the food were decorated booths, artifacts, and costumes representing traditional art and garb of each country.
Attendees also participated in various recreational activities. John Kuo, an alumnus of the University, led dancers through traditional dance steps to music that included Afro-pop and Serbian gypsy music.
On-stage performances included salsa and Indian dance, medieval combat, an ethnic fashion show, and capoeira—a Brazillian blend of martial arts and dance.
Planning for the Festival began in January, and although Ogeto said that the event was smaller than previous years’, this year’s Festival of Nations nevertheless attracted more culture-hungry visitors than planners anticipated.
“We didn’t expect to have so many people come out. This year’s festival was small-scale due to minimized planning. Some people were impressed and others asked why it was so small and indoors this year, but overall, the festival managed to be an impressive fusion of music, food, dance, artwork, and fashion, capturing the essence of the world,” Ogeto said.