The VCU Intercultural Festival featured student and community performances, alongside cultural activities and vendors, across the Monroe Park Campus on April 7.
A student organization of the same name organizes the festival, which is funded by the university and held annually on Preview Day for accepted students.
“You get to meet totally different people you never thought you would meet just because this organization is very diverse and full of different people,” said director Brittany Wong, a senior information systems major.
Planning for the festival, whose activities included face paint, caricatures, a photobooth and henna tattoos done by student artists, started in the fall of last year, Wong said. In planning the festival, the organization tries to “change up” the vendors by recruiting different food trucks, she said.
“We try to get a diverse selection of the food trucks, the performances, the music,” Wong said. “We wanted to unify the campus.”
In order to encourage attendees to visit all parts of the festival, those who obtained a sticker from each “ocean” or section of the festival were given a free T-shirt.
“We’re here for diversity, multiculturalism and there’s a lot to do for everyone at different ages in Richmond in general,” Wong said.
Junior exercise science student Maame Owusu said the festival was a way for attendees to see different cultures and for prospective students to see VCU’s diversity. As one of the festival’s vendors, she sold handmade clothing and accessories from her line, Santwa Couture.
Owusu said she first started sewing when she got bored during a hurricane. She was in middle school at the time and has continued throughout high school and college.
“Of course, I’m not majoring in it so I’m not able to do it as often, it’s kind of like a hobby to me,” Owusu said.
The style of kente shirts she sells originates in Ghana, where Owusu is from. She said she tries to add modern elements to her styles, so the shirts can be worn casually or formally. Her mother, for whom the clothing line is named, serves as inspiration.
“I think [the clothing line] is pretty cool because you get to wear something that’s not from your local H&M, Forever 21, just to kind of spice up your wardrobe,” Owusu said.
The Lebanese Student Association, a student group started last fall, performed the Dabke, a traditional folk dance. The group’s festival performance was its first time performing on campus, though the members do regular dance performances around Richmond, said LSA President Mya Khoury.
“This is a dance that the people of Lebanon love to do at events, parties, weddings. It’s a big deal,” Khoury said. “It’s basically just three or four steps, depending on how intense you want it. We get fancy with it, we freestyle a little.”
The performance began onstage, based around variations on a circular formation. Dancers later moved into the crowd, circling the audience in a long chain.
“At events like this, we like to get crowd interaction because people get more hype and excited,” Khoury said. “We go around the crowd, we grab everyone and we want to teach them how to do it so they can partake in our culture.”