From Arabic dancers to belly dancers, over 45 different booths will come together March 31 at the eighth annual World Cultures Fair, hosted by the School of Languages and World Cultures, in Stern Center Garden. Student and community organizations will man booths from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., giving students and Charleston locals a chance to not only experience cultures from around the world, but to taste them.
The first hour’s dining options will be of Asian origin, the next hour will feature Latin American dishes and then, to finish things off, the final hour will feature a sample of European cuisine. During each hour, student organizations will give audience members a feel for their club through the food they make.
“We’re hoping to create more interaction, more face-to-face, by having more food at the tables to attract people to stop at the tables, and then to start that conversation about that culture or that language,” said Kathy Kauffman, French professor at the College and director of the event.
Interaction is to be expected with so many performances and demonstrations. Kaufmann has been planning this day since January. She has found a diverse array of entertainers, including a Lion dance composition of martial arts, the College’s Latin American ensemble Otro Sur and a local Russian band performing for the first time. Kaufmann opened up the booth and performance slots to community members outside the College campus walls.
“It’s open to the public for free and we want the Charleston community to come,” Kaufmann said. “It’s nice to see that Charleston isn’t just a homogenous culture. We’ve got all these different neighborhoods and all these different nationalities and cultures represented not just within (the College) but within Charleston.”
The fair will celebrate not only what is on the planet, but the planet itself. This year’s World Cultures Fair is a totally green event.
“(We’re) not just respecting world cultures, but also the world itself because if we don’t keep a lockdown on that, then what’s the point in celebrating cultures if we don’t have a world to live in?” Kaufmann said. “So that’s a big focus, the green movement.”
In addition to walking away with a full belly, a henna tattoo and a World Cultures Fair t-shirt, attendees will leave the fair with an understanding and appreciation of different parts of the world.
“What’s so important about the World Cultures Fair, beyond the free food, the entertainment and the fun activities, is really to remember, especially in this time when the world so feels kind of hopelessly divided in a lot of places geographically, ideologically and politically, an event like this which celebrates world cultures and reminds us to sort of reflect upon and respect cultures, languages (and) ideologies all around the world, and find the good in them and find what’s worth celebrating in them,” Kaufmann said.
The latter half of Kaufmann’s school year was spent laying the groundwork for the fair. She plans to use this year’s roadmap to plan out future World Culture Fairs, and expects nothing but positive outcomes from the event. Kauffman understands what such an important event says about the school as a whole.
“Overall it says that we value different cultures, we value an international outlook, we value international education…” Kaufmann said. “It gives a strong emphasis that a global view, a global perspective is integral to a College of Charleston education.”