Diving Down the Cultural Iceberg
RedBeat had the opportunity to chat with a few students about their cultures during Middlesex University’s 14th ‘International Day’. There is a broad spectrum of tradition that inhabits the MDX student body and RedBeat is honoured to have witnessed this in its purest form: conversations with students.
The question and answers have been edited to provide a seamless reading experience.
Q. What is something you learned about a different culture today?
I learned that in Indian [Hindu] weddings, they have a Mehendi ceremony where the bride can get a traditional henna design and have their partner’s initials hidden within the pattern for them to find. I feel like that’s romantic.
It signifies that it’s secretly embedded in there, with no one else knowing- there’s some intimacy shared between them and their partner. It’s something I want to carry in terms of its symbolic meaning. It’s a little, small message between you and your partner; since your wedding day is such a big, ceremonious event, having something little between the couple and that’s sweet.
Q. What is your relationship with your homeland?
The beautiful thing about my country is we are diverse, we have over 180 cultures. Even though there may be conflicts [among these cultures] some things bring us together like football and celebrations, for example, weddings and stuff. So, it reunites us and there’s a little tolerance. I participate in these activities and feel a part of my culture when I do. I feel belongingness and the feeling of fitting in somewhere. Like you get to relate to people because you share the same culture, the same food, and music.
I think moving to the United Arab Emirates has improved my relationship with my culture because when you get to an international city we get to show the world who we actually are. There are a lot of misconceptions about African cultures, so I think we are the ones that are doing a good job of representing our true values and culture. And I feel that way because wherever you go, you can hear a Nigerian song playing or you hear people talking about our food. So, there’s definitely a positive impact.’
Q. Is your national attire a part of your daily wardrobe? If not, why??
Because now, casual outfits are more normalised than traditional outfits. And I think it’s because of the new generation coming in and everything changes. The Philippines has been colonised many times, so the culture has evolved to us dressing more casually instead of our cultural clothes. I guess the fear of judgment from society is the primary reason why we do not wear traditional clothes regularly. Sheer discrimination from people. People talk a lot nowadays- they have a lot to say when they see something different. We then have to adapt to what they want in order to not experience these things. If we were not judged for it, would we wear this regularly? Why not? It’s pretty to wear. I feel more comfortable and proud.
You feel like you.
Q. How has your perception of your culture changed as you’ve aged?
I think my idea of culture has grown more accepting over time. I remember when I was younger, there was a phase I went through when I was resistant to a lot of ideas and traditions that were practiced by my culture. I’m speaking like, middle school. I think I was very influenced by western ideas at that time because I used to consume a lot of western media. My culture is very different from what I was used to seeing. I actually come from a very local culture within Karnataka; my culture is only practiced by the people in my own town, so it was always very different from everyone around me and it’s also quite conservative.
The place I am right now, I’ve learned to kind of accept its uniqueness and appreciate the good things that come with it while still being critical of things.
Q. What is a traditional food you think deserves a better rep?
Pav Bhaji! It’s GOATED (considered the greatest of all time).
Memories. My dad introduced it to me. We used to go out every weekend, we both ordered pav bhaji. It’s not more to do with the taste, but it’s the most Indian way of enjoying food– just purely using your hands, you know? Dip it in the curry.
Oh my god. I could go for some right now. Regardless of nostalgia, it’s a good piece of food and it’s very filling.
Q. What is a national custom unusual to the rest of the world?
In the Buganda Kingdom, we kneel down on both knees to greet someone as a sign of respect. Personally, I practice this when I go back home to Uganda, mostly for elders with a normal greeting in my native language. I haven’t seen anyone else do this, maybe they do it but I haven’t seen it. We get a lot of comments saying that ‘you’re putting yourself below someone’ but we see it as a sign of respect.
Q. What is one cultural event or festivity you wished the rest of the world payed heed to?
There’s a [Hindu] festival called Navratri. It is a nine-day festival celebrating women and the different goddesses in our religion, Hinduism. I think it is very good to empower women and to let people everywhere know that women are strong enough like the goddesses we celebrate for nine days.