Many of the international students at Durham College and UOIT came to the country by themselves to seek knowledge, gain independence, and experience Canadian culture. This year, Durham College and UOIT collaborated on their first ever celebration of International Mother Language Day.
With an international student base of more than 400 students from 32 different countries, the event offered a look into many cultures of the world and showed the diversity of DC/UOIT.
The event was held in the gyms of the Campus Health and Recreation Centre, a venue large enough for the high turnout, multiple displays, and enough space to accompany performances.
The celebration began with Capoeira dancers, a dance that originated in Brazil, which incorporates marital arts and dance. The Axé Capoeira group from Toronto delivered a performance that wowed the crowd and added energy to the atmosphere.
Student groups that put together showcases included West and East Africa, Palestine, India, China, Israel, Brazil, and many others from all over the globe. The stands taught their culture through games, traditional food, dress, history, and language.
Many students shared insight into the hardships their homelands face, whether it is war, gay rights, women’s rights, or political instability.
Larissa Strong, the manager of international student services at Durham College, was extremely impressed with the work the students put in and the turnout at the event.
“We’re really satisfied with the success of this year, we want to keep doing this moving forward,” said Strong.
Twenty student groups participated, although some of the nationalities at the school were unable to represent themselves due to too few students from that country. The displays the students made were phenomenal, and the creativity of the students was incredible, Strong believes.
Students from Botswana spoke proudly of their country, saying it is one the few in Africa to have never had a civil war.
“It’s like an African Canada, in terms of peace,” said Sedze Buthali.
Buthali was eager to show her country’s dress styles for women, styles that have changed over generations.
“This is our traditional attire, most of the young women in my country dress like this,” said Buthali while motioning to her fitted red, knee length polka dot dress.
“Those are really traditional, the kind of stuff my mother would wear,” she laughed, motioning to two longer, looser, and more conservative dresses behind their stand.
The Palestinians showcased an array of traditional foods and a tall hookah, although it couldn’t be used indoors because of the smoke it produces.
The students from India set up one of the largest stations, with information on the many provinces of India, and multiple boards outlining history. The Sanskrit language, yoga, meditation, and cricket, showed aspects of the country some people might not know of.
Talented henna artists Zankhana Bavishi and Neelam Brahmbhatt offered free henna tattoos during the duration of the event, with many students around campus marked with the traditional body art of the world’s seventh largest country.
International Mother Language Day was created by United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in 1999 to promote multilingualism and diversity.
More than 6,000 languages are spoken in the world today, which means that the people who speak those languages have a voice.