Pangaea: Uniting Cultures

io-pangaea-laurenjewett-mar1.jpg Neila Bazaracai
“200 million years ago, there were no borders, no countries, and no continents. Only Pangaea. Let’s unite again, as one.” So claimed the mysterious posters that sprang up around campus during the past few weeks. On Saturday, Mar. 7, 20 of McMaster’s cultural clubs came together in a spectacular celebration of diversity. Through rich cultural displays, delectable food and diverse languages, each club—from the Chinese Students and Scholars’ Association to the McMaster Association of Serbian Students to the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union—shared its unique background.

Pangaea has been McMaster’s largest multicultural show every year since its establishment seven years ago. The event faced some difficulties this year, as last year’s cancellation due to inclement weather led to funding problems and less participation for 2009. According to Raphael Hyuntae Ahn, this year’s director, there were about 100 students involved in the performances, along with many more helping at the pavilions. A total of 30 volunteers helped on the day of the show, and six executive members lead the way.

However, there were more people behind Pangaea’s success than just those directly involved. “I really thank McMaster University, international services, student services, and diversity services for providing us the environment in which we students can come together and work together to celebrate multiculturalism,” says Ahn.

Preparations started way back at the beginning of the first semester, culminating in a day-long experience this past Saturday. The show was an excellent integration of education and entertainment as the various cultural groups shared their traditional art, dance, food, games, and traditions.

Each group had a pavilion set up throughout the second and third floors of the Student Centre, containing a colourful display with various items from their native lands. The Pakistan Students’ Association (PSA) pavilion was adorned with sparkling bangles, pillows, and games. Mahreen Saleem, the student in charge of Pangaea from the PSA, said, “We’re a country with a lot of rich arts and crafts, and that’s what we try to show in our pavilion. There’s so much hard work put into these items.”

Shawn Novakowski of the McMaster Polish Society described the various events in which the club partakes: Polish movie nights, banquets with the Hamilton Polish community, dances, and trips to Blue Mountain. The club laid out perogies and cold cuts, as well as a slideshow of photos from Poland for visitors to enjoy.

At the Organization of Latin American Students, Angela and Ursula (the co-president and treasurer of the club, respectively) described their club’s events, including promoting Latin American culture, teaching Spanish classes (free for members, $2 for non-members), offering dance classes in salsa, merengue and bachata, and hosting cultural dinners. Next year, they’re focussing on community outreach, offering guidance to Hispanic high school students and helping facilitate their transition into university.

Similarly, Ante Skoko, the President of the McMaster Croatian Society described their club’s upcoming pig roast and pub nights, as well as the fundraiser hosted for the family of a man in their community who recently passed away. “The club gives everyone a good base,” he says, “it’s really good for first years that come from out of town.”

In addition to the pavilions, Pangaea had two performances in which thirteen of the groups partook. Most displayed a cultural dance, though there was also a skit by the Polish group and a few other miscellaneous acts. A few performances stood out in particular, namely Ukraine, Japan, China, the African and Caribbean, and South Korea. The Ukrainian dancers had a very professional and well-rehearsed performance, with remarkable acrobatics from the male dancers in particular. Japan’s extreme martial arts demonstration was straight out of a kung fu movie, while China was represented simply by a remarkably beautiful Chinese harp performance. The African Caribbean Association and South Korea both had dances showing elements of their cultures, with a hip-hop dance from the former group and an amazing display of pop and locking, as well as break dancing from the latter.

Pangaea did a great job raising awareness and fostering an appreciation of our multicultural community. It brought McMaster and Hamilton together, with many people from the community in attendance. In essence, Pangaea was a celebration of humanity; it was recognition of our differences but, more deeply, of our inherent equality.