Colors of their culture: Fashion show returns to International Festival stage
WORTHINGTON -- Whether you were there for the music or the dancing, to make new friends or meet old neighbors, or to sample some of the fabulous ethnic cuisine, the International Festival in downtown Worthington was the place to be on Friday nigh...
WORTHINGTON - Whether you were there for the music or the dancing, to make new friends or meet old neighbors, or to sample some of the fabulous ethnic cuisine, the International Festival in downtown Worthington was the place to be on Friday night and Saturday.
In its 22nd year, the festival lured the young, and the young at heart, from a spectrum of nationalities to celebrate all heritage and cultures.
Back for the second time in three years was the International Festival Fashion Show, which featured dozens of individuals modeling traditional clothing from Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.
Vilai Khanya, youth development coordinator for the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, organized the show, which featured traditional outfits from 17 different countries.
“Clothing from different countries is a big thing,” she said. “It’s a part of culture because it helps (people) express themselves through colors, through fabric, who they are, what they believe in and what type of person they are.”
Khanya was surprised to learn that so many people of European descent don’t have traditional clothing items from their home country. That made the search difficult to find items for modeling.
“Only Germany and Austria (nationalities) had clothing,” she said. “I wish there was more. I assumed everyone had clothing from their country like I did.”
In some cases, models had articles of clothing shipped from their home country.
Ngoc Nguyen, 17, of Worthington, modeled a pale pink ao dai dress that came direct from Vietnam.
“My parents asked my cousin to send a dress,” Nguyen shared, adding that she looked at styles online before choosing an ao dai dress. “They sent it to Omaha and my parents picked it up.”
The dress is something Nguyen said she will wear to the temple, but it is also something she could wear for dances.
Austere Apolo may be a native of Burma, but for Friday night’s fashion show, she was adorned in a traditional Eritrean outfit owned by Aida Simon. As Simon explained, the dress would typically be worn to a wedding or to various ceremonies. The pale peach gown was adorned in special shells from Masawa - the Red Sea.
“They are very popular and very unique, and very rare in Eritrea,” Simon said.
Sisters Xiomara Mendoza and Leidy Lazano wore the colors of their homeland of El Salvador - white and blue - as they modeled dresses that would traditionally be worn by El Salvadoran women and girls to attend church or parties.
While Jessica Velasco’s heritage is Mexican, she and her children, daughter Jocelyn, 4, and son, Cristian Kai, 7, modeled clothing brought for the International Festival by Jaidy Kolander’s sister, who is visiting from Colombia. Velasco wore an all-white dress typically worn by Colombian women while dancing to Cumbia, a type of music. Her daughter wore a traditional Colombian little girl’s outfit, while her son was dressed in traditional gaucho attire, complete with a cowboy hat.
“This was just some of the attire from Colombia,” Velasco said. “There are different regions from Colombia, so hopefully next year we can bring in many more of the pieces from each country.”
Sporting Aztec Indian headdresses and brightly colored outfits to show the pride in their Mexican culture were Alondra Leon and Elo Pacas. The outfits were custom-made in Mexico, and were often worn for Aztec Indian weddings, explained Pacas.
Now, he is among a group of about 20 individuals who wear the traditional Aztec outfits - complete with ayoyotes on each ankle - to perform Aztec dances. The ayoyotes are made from hard shells of the ayoyote tree and create a jingling sound while dancing.
Providing the music during the fashion show was 14-year-old Ammanuel Ojha, a native of Ethiopia who moved to Worthington two years ago to live with his father, Omar Ojulu.
Ojha learned to play the drums in the traditional Anuak culture using a stick in one hand and his fingers on the other to create a beat.
Today, Ojha plays the drums during church services and celebrations. In his home country, Ojulu said drums are played for weddings, church services, to celebrate and to send people off to war.