Embracing culture through the arts

Students express their diverse identities

Sara Rahman, asst. a&e editor

Whether it is showing off intricate henna designs, dancing around a cultural centerpiece, or carving gods onto stamps, South finds ways to embrace culture through the arts, Science Teacher Jeffery Kurian said. 

Garba Night, which occurred on Nov. 5, provided an opportunity for many to express the Hindu culture through music and dance, Kurian said. He explained that Garba night was an event of cultural and religious significance for the Hindu community. 

“[Garba] was an event for the Hindu religion where they were celebrating God,” Kurian said. “It’s a time and place for people to come together and listen to music. It’s not [only] a dance, it’s a celebration of the actual deity.”

Cultural dances can help people explore and learn more about their culture, sophomore Claira Paul said. She explained that Garba exposed her to parts of her culture she was previously unaware of.

“[I have] never been in touch with my culture, but because of Garba, I got to learn more about it,” Paul said. “I learned dances and culture, and I’m glad I went. Now I’m looking forward to [going to Garba] every year.”

Cultural dances also have historical significance, sophomore Angelina Stratakos said. Stratakos enjoys teaching Greek dance to younger kids because it is a way to maintain her culture and teach others about it as well. 

“There’s a lot of history behind [Greek] dancing,” Stratakos said. “During the Turkish enslavement, Greeks used dance as communication in order to gain freedom. We have a very rich [cultural] history, and we get to share that history through dance.”

Stratakos expressed her love for performing Greek dances because it helped her form a deeper connection to her culture, and her family.

“By performing [Greek dance, I] am connecting with my culture in a fun way,” Stratakos said. “[Dancing] also connects me to my ancestors.”

Art comes in many forms, not only dance, junior Areesha Altaf said. Henna is an ancient practice of body art found in Southeast Asia and she does henna the night before Eid, an Islamic holiday, in a way to celebrate the occasion. She expressed her love for henna because it is a reflection of her artistic abilities and a long-lived tradition in her family.

“The night before Eid I will do my Henna and my mom’s Henna,” Altaf said. [Henna is] really fun [tradition in my family]. There’s [so] many different styles, designs, and patterns you can do.”

Expressing one’s culture can help others understand it too, senior Gabrielle Leon explained. Leon carved ancient Aztec Gods into stamps during her drawing class to illustrate cultural folklore of Mexico.

“My stamp shows two [Mexican] gods Mictlāntēcutli, the god of the dead, with his wife Mictēcacihuātl,” Leon said. “Creating this piece was important to me, and it makes me feel glad that others can connect to this piece too.”

Leon expressed her love for this project because it has a personal connection to her and ancient Mexican practices of worship. Leon’s stamp signifies the pre-colonization period of Mexico and relates directly to her indigenous culture.

“My art is a way I express my love for my culture,” Leon said. “These stamps were worshiped in the Aztec Empire, and [some of the] indigenous groups believe and worship these figures. [The gods are] important to me and is a root of many indigenous cultures of Mexico.”

Appreciating cultural arts can harbor a passion for the culture itself, sophomore Domenica Collaro explained. She expressed her love for Japanese anime, which inspired her to start drawing her favorite characters.

“After watching [anime], I realized how much [Japanese] culture is represented [in it], which made me interested in learning more [about the culture],” Collaro said. “There would be religious practices, food, and hobbies,” Collaro said. Anime sparked my interest to learn Japanese, and to start to draw anime. I use anime and drawing as a way to understand more of Japanese culture and further my knowledge in [the] Japanese [language].

Cultural arts such as dance can also have a familial importance, sophomore Kayla Mathai expressed. She said that cultural Indian dance brings her family together because they gather for an activity that they enjoy.

“[My family and I] get together to dance for [cultural] family events, ” Mathai said. “It’s a great bonding experience [and] we [perform] Indian dancing with some American styles incorporated [during weddings].”

Most of all, Mathai values cultural dance because it helps keep traditions alive in her family. With changing customs and traditions in her family, it’s important for Mathai to express herself and her culture through familiar activities. 

“[Dancing] connects me to my culture because it allows me to keep doing what my parents used to do when they were younger, and hopefully I can pass that down to my kids,” Mathai said.