CULTURE NIGHTS

Gaginang.

That may not mean much to the average UCLA student. However, Loan Chung, the current Teo-Chew Association (TCA) secretary and incoming internal president, truly appreciates the meaning of the word: ‘Gaginang’ is a common phrase that Teochew people use to connect with each other, wherever they are in the world.

“What I love about being Teochew is that when we say ‘Gaginang’ (‘our people’), we truly mean it,” said Chung. “There is no such thing as strangers in our world.”

What is Teochew?

Teochew is a dialect native to the eastern province of Guangdong, China, that preserves many old Chinese pronunciations and words no longer found among the popular modern dialects, such as Mandarin or Cantonese.

However, Teochew speakers aren’t found just in China. You can also find these dialect speakers in regions like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and even Los Angeles.

Teo-Chew Association (TCA) has been at UCLA since 2004.

TCA member Qinhao Xu finds the language to be an essential element in unifying members into a family. “One of the most memorable experience is having a language workshop during the weekly meeting, where we practice our native language Teochew,” said Xu. “This is what make this so special because most of us are second generation immigrants.”

Teochew is considered a dying language – it’s difficult for younger generations overseas to practice the language outside of the family since it’s not nearly as popular as Mandarin or Cantonese. Merely finding others who speak the language is a challenge in of itself.

TCA provides an opportunity for people to meet others who share a similar cultural background while also meeting others who speak the language. “We want to keep our language and culture alive while also creating a place where people of our background can find a ‘family’ away from home,” noted co-president Victor Tran.

TCA at UCLA.

Teochew manages to bring multiple campuses together. The TCA associations from UCLA, UCI, and UCSD held their first joint banquet this year. Tran treasures the memories he has made with them.

“My most memorable experience of being [co-]president of TCA would have to be the first joint banquet this year,” he said. “Although it was very hectic, it was a joy to be able to work with the sister organizations from the other UC schools for one big joint banquet. I enjoyed seeing many of the members from all of the campuses interacting together and having fun.”

UCLA TCA, UCSD TCA, UCI TCA, and the main Southern California TCA branch

You don’t have to speak Teochew or be of Teochew background in order to join – TCA welcomes anyone who is interested. Although TCA is a smaller organization on campus, it’s this size that allows such a tight-knit community where everyone can get to know each other. The organization doesn’t have active membership requirements; its members are simply passionate people who care not only about Teochew culture but also about the well-being of the club and its members.

While there won’t be any more meetings this quarter for TCA, check out their Facebook page for regular updates on meetings, socials, and other events. Check out the website for more details as well.

Hui O’Imiloa (Hawai’i Club) at UCLA has been hosting an annual lu’au for the past 31 years, and this year is no exception. By showcasing contemporary and traditional hula, the Hawai’i club brings the Hawaii experience to Ackerman Grand Ballroom. In addition to traditional Hawaiian dance, this year will also feature Tahitian, and Maori (New Zealand) dances.

In Polynesian culture, a lu’au is historically an important feast marking a special occasion. The word “luau,” in Hawaiian, is the name of the taro leaf, which is typically cooked like spinach. Now, people still have luaus to come together to eat, sing, and dance.

Hui O’Imiloa means a group of adventurers or explorers, something the club members have embodied as they explore Hawaiian culture. Many do not have direct ties to Hawai’i or the Polynesian culture but still are welcome in this space. Fourth year, Angela Nguyen has been in Hawai’i club since she was a freshman because she wanted to find a space on campus that would allow her to continue hula dancing. Nguyen is now Hawai’i club’s financial co-vice president and has been preparing for the annual lu’au for the past year in hopes that students will learn a lot about Hawaiian and other Polynesian cultures.

“Not only do we perform traditional chants and dances, but also we explain the stories and the meanings behind them” said Nguyen.

Second year external vice-president, Erin Murashige is from Hawai’i and knew that before starting school that she wanted to join the club. “The club also allows me to continue to dance hula with amazing people while I am in college,” said Murashige.

Hawai’i Club’s 32nd annual Lu`au – Nohea will be held in Ackerman Grand Ballroom on May 6th from 5-9pm.

“We want to showcase authentic culture, from the costumes and decorations to the music and performances. We also hope to dispel a lot of the stereotypes surrounding Hawaiian culture (e.g. coconut bras and grass skirts) by showing that there is so much more to it than is portrayed in the media,” explained Nguyen.

In addition to dancing and ukulele performances, a traditional Hawaiian dinner will also be served.

“We are trying to showcase what a luau in Hawai’i would be like with entertainment, food and a feeling of aloha. I hope that students who attend will enjoy the experience and learn more about the culture,” said Murashige.

You can stay updated with all of Hui O ‘Imiloa’s events through their Facebook page, Facebook group, and YouTube channel

With Thai Smakom’s upcoming 19th annual culture night, Pacific Ties sits down with Derek Nguyen, the director of the show and Dennis Nguyen, the president of Thai Smakom, to discuss this year’s cultural show and it’s main theme.  This year’s show is called “Now & Then & Back Again” and will appear in Schoenberg Hall from 6:30-10:00 p.m.

Danial, Interviewer: What inspired the name of the Show: Now & Then & Back Again?

Derek, Director: A lot of times when you tell stories to people, you tell it again and again and the story spreads around. Because of that you get people talking about your stories and sometimes it makes its way around and it comes back to you–this happened to me. I told this random story once about how if you pressed some button at Costco, you get 10 cents, and next thing I know someone told it to me to see if I would believe it or not.

Dennis, President: It’s a lot to do with stories and replaying emotions. Especially love.

Danial, Interviewer: So kind of like replaying old VCR tapes?

D,P: Yeah, or even a book. You can relive those moments. It’s like, you live in the present, right? But you live those moments simultaneously.

D,I: Like a split screen.

D,P: Yes, exactly. I wanna look back at the old days and good times.

D,I: What do you most want to accomplish through this show?

D,D: A. Bring Thai folklore and Thai culture in the spotlight and give the Thai community something to remember. This show has united different communities on campus including the Chinese, Thai etc… and B. Honestly to share the love of storytelling because everyone loves storytelling–the theme itself is storytelling, how it can shape our lives and how we view it.

D, P: It’s the Thai Club. So I don’t know if you can tell but my ethnicity is not Thai and I’m the president of the Thai club.

D,I: Oh, no I couldn’t.

D,P: Yeah, so I’m Vietnamese. But I really care about Thai culture. I try to spread it as much as I can. I have that passion in my heart for it. I really feel like TCN (Thai Cultural Night) is a great way to get involved with cultural events. I was just working as the sound guy when I started out. But the way everyone just comes together to make something through acting, dancing etc… is what I fell in love with. You’d think you wouldn’t be friends with so many people and then you end up forming this tight-nit group. That’s the thing, though–I’m not Thai and I love this.

D,I: So when I read the description for the show–the bit about it being a story within a story, within a story–I thought of the Russian Babushka doll. Is that the kind of effect you were going for?

D,D: To a degree. I actually haven’t thought of that in terms of the plot. My idea is of a story, with a story, within a story, but my point is you get to see how stories affect other people and how they are retold over and over again. Main symbol is a circle because it gets retold. The big theme is the hero’s story–everything can be devolved down into the same structure and hopefully I was tackling the story structure and circular essence of storytelling.

D,P: I thought of it more like inception, but I totally see where you’re coming from. I actually think that’s a better way to think of it. As viewers, we understand a lot of why certain things are said. Like, one character says “I know you” and the other replies “I don’t know you! How do you know me?” And so the first half is representative of that. We as viewers understand all of these stories as they are all interconnected, like a circle in a sense.

D,I: Will the show be mostly English?

D,D: Completely English other than some Thai terminology. All the names are Thai, but the dialogue is English.

D,P: I’d say 98%. Obviously we are trying to appeal to the wider demographic and so we use English, except for when we name historical figures. I cannot put subtitles on stage. And so if anything is said, like “Nang Tani,” and people are like “what is that?” it’ll be explained soon after it is mentioned. Like, oh, it’s a banana spirit.

D,I: Oh that’s great! The last culture show I went to they were speaking a lot of my native language, which was nice and all, but at my table it was just me and my White, Latino and Indian friends who were just immensely confused. So it’s good that you guys are doing that.

D,P: Yeah, I get that. Like, we want people to be culturally curious and interested and not to alienate them instead.

D,I: What is the general theme you are going for?

D,P: Storytelling. It’s a story about storytelling. And you can apply this to your life in my personal opinion. You know, sometimes like bad things happen and sometimes you’ve gotta keep those bad memories with you, but at the same time you’ve got to move on. There’s a character who hates the world after something happened to him. Our other protagonist helps him learn not to lash out and that he has to live on in place of those who can’t. That’s something I have felt through the play.

For more information, visit Thai Cultural Night on Facebook and Thai Smakom Club.

On April 16, 2014, nearly 470 passengers and crew rode on the ferry MV Sewol to Jeju Island in South Korea, of which 325 high school students anticipated a weekend of fun. Instead, 250 of them and 50 more passengers and crew were killed as the ferry capsized and sank.

Three years later on April 12, operations to recover the ferry were finally successful, and the ferry was brought onto land. Nine bodies were still considered missing.

Despite the tremendous loss of lives, the tragedy has received very little coverage in recent years, but in 2017, UCLA’s Korean Culture Night aimed to imprint the event onto our memories and memorialize the many victims with “A Passing of Time.”

“I felt like it was very necessary, especially for college students, to hear about people who were their age that passed away in such a tragic way. I think I just used KCN as an avenue to tell that story, to tell the people but in a relatable manner,” said Diane Kim, director of KCN.

At an audience-packed Royce Hall on April 13, we are introduced to seven high school students, each with their own backstory and dreams. We first meet Nari (Eunice Lim), a very studious schoolgirl with extremely controlling parents and dreams of becoming a professional Korean fan dancer, and her dramatic friend, Yeji (Kaylin So), who also wishes to pursue the same ambition. Next, we see Jihoon (Sean Choi), the rich, spoiled kid with uncaring parents, clashing with Jun (Alex Hwang), an outgoing transfer student, for Nari’s love (Jun does win this battle). Jihoon’s clumsy friend, Cheol Su (Andrew Lee), longs to meet his little sister who lives with a divorced parent, and Jun’s friend, Minjae (Kevin Joung), supports his little sister on his own as their parents are constantly working. Finally, we meet recently-fired-barista Jungha (Rebecca Choi), a short-tempered girl with an overworking single mother and an obsession with K-pop band BTS.

Through the students, the audience members were able to relive parts of their high school days: constant studying, underage drinking and clubbing, dealing with parents, longing for parents, guys fighting over a girl, and reaching our goals. We were the students … until the disaster.

The students, along with Jungha and Minji’s sisters, huddled together as the ferry began to tilt. Audio tracks of a ship groaning and an emergency alarm echoed through Royce while Hanoolim’s poongmul team marched around the group playing a macabre beat. The intensity of the traditional drums only increased, overpowering the screams of the group, until complete silence and darkness consumed the stage.

A few minutes passed. Stage lights reappeared, and we came upon a wake. We witnessed parents and survivors in anguish. Mothers and fathers screamed that they could have done more, regretting saying words they should not have or not saying words they should have. Survivors questioned why they could not have helped more during the moment and wondered why such an unfair incident even occurred. Jihoon, one of the survivors, left us with a final soliloquy: People tell us to move on, but “we will always remember our friends. Please do not forget them.”

After extensive characterization and humanization of our beloved characters, we reached the climax of the show. The sinking of the Sewol ferry was not just about a captain abandoning the ship, a ferry capsizing, and people dying. It was about lives that could have been, dreams that were to be fulfilled, people like many of the individuals at UCLA that had names and are children to parents. Regardless of the passing of time, these people meant something to us and others, and as such, they should always be remembered, even though they are no longer with us.

Executive producer of KCN Eddie Kang expressed, “I hope [the audience] will leave knowing more … about this incident that happened three years ago, and that they’ll go back and just remember the people who were lost in this tragedy.”

 

UCLA Pacific Islands’ Student Association (PISA) hosted its 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night at Ackerman Grand Ballroom on Saturday, March 11, 2017. The evening consisted of an authentic Samoan dinner catered by Kumar’s Island Market/Boutique Samoa Market in Anaheim, Calif. and traditional cultural dances and music of the islands of Polynesia.

Cultures featured during the night included those of Maori, Hawai’i, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, and Tonga.

Students of UCLA PISA and Hui O ‘Imiloa – Hawai’i Club at UCLA performed, along with members from other organizations outside UCLA. Some of these other organizations include Tupulaga (Carson, Calif.), CSUF South Pacific Islander Student Association, and UCR Pacific Islander Student Alliance.

Performance by Tupulaga.
Performance by Amelia Vernon.
UCLA PISA’s 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night.

Informational poster boards on the cultures of the islands represented during the show were also displayed.

Informational board of Aotearoa.
Informational board of Tahiti.

The 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night was hosted by Keali’i Troy Kukahiko, a graduate student in UCLA’s Department of Education. Kukahiko expressed his appreciation of Polynesian Arts & Culture Night as it reflected the growing and thriving community of Pacific Islander (PI) students at UCLA. In contrast, Kukahiko described his undergraduate experience at UCLA as isolating, being one of eight PI undergraduate students.

Although the number of PI undergraduate students at UCLA has grown, the community continues to be underrepresented and underreported. The program for the 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night included a description of UCLA PISA stating that Pacific Islanders make up less than one percent of the student population at UCLA.

On UCLA’s online campus profile, Asian and Pacific Islander ethnicities are grouped together, claiming to make up 32.1 percent of undergraduate student enrollment as of Fall 2016. UCLA’s reported facts reflects the problematic data aggregation of Asians and Pacific Islanders that contributes to the masking and erasing of specific issues and challenges that Pacific Islander students face in higher education.

During the evening, Kukahiko remarked that the students in UCLA PISA performing during the night were “not just performers but activists.” In actively serving and building its communities, UCLA PISA outreaches to PI students in Los Angeles schools, helps PI students come to UCLA, provides a support system for the PI community at UCLA, and more.

While Kukahiko closed the show saying that the event “wouldn’t be a culture night without [the audience’s] love and presence,” the 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night would not have been possible without UCLA PISA’s dedication to raising awareness about Polynesian culture through sharing the beauty and resiliency of its communities. 

BY LUCY MA AND VIVIAN LEE

On Friday, March 3, Nikkei Student Union (NSU) hosted their 31st Annual Cultural Night: “Chirashi” in Royce Hall, a reminder of the persecution and discrimination Japanese Americans faced during World War II, with the implementation of Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942.

This executive order forced more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent living in the United States, mostly American citizens, into incarceration among ten concentration camps, a process that not only violated personal liberties but also took away ownership of property and tore apart families.

To acknowledge the history of this experience, NSU uses cultural night as a night where, according to their program, “we commemorate the memory of those incarcerated, showcase our talents to the UCLA community, and celebrate the richness of our beloved Japanese American community.”

This year’s title, “Chirashi,” meaning “scattered,” is a Japanese dish usually served with a mix of different kinds of fish and vegetables that are laid together on top of rice.

Chirashi “was a metaphor for the multiple storylines within the drama that conveys the larger theme of acknowledging the variety of motivations that bring people into our community,” said Emiko Kranz, the current NSU president.

We are first introduced to Lynn (portrayed by Stacy Kadomasu), who is somewhat a hot-headed girl. She is followed by Samson (Justin Shinn), who invites her to his staggering family restaurant, Chirashi.

Lynn often worked begrudgingly in the restaurant because she owes Samson a debt, but, through Samson’s cousin June (Emiko Kranz), who is helping with the family restaurant, Lynn learns that Chirashi had been a safe haven for Japanese Americans during WWII — a place where they could be treated like equal human beings.

However, Samson, despite being the current restaurant owner, ran off with the restaurant’s funds, including June and Lynn’s payments. The story later reveals that Samson ran away because his fate was tied to the restaurant, which burdened him.

Samson explaining why he had left the restaurant. Photo courtesy of Brian Kohaya.

As soon as Samson ran off with the money, a contracting firm appears, announcing that the restaurant will be soon evicted.

Meanwhile, Tetsuya (played by Joey Yasuhiro) is introduced as one of the contracting firm representatives, who had a similar experience to June and Lynn. In order to protect his family’s flower shop and his sick mom, Tetsuya joined his uncle’s contracting firm, where he has to evict staggering yet historical and community-centered shops often.

In the end, Samson returned the money to June and Lynn, who then worked with Grace (Kendra Motoyasu), an architect and Tetsuya’s friend, and Noburu (Andre Leite) who quit working at the contracting firm, to restore Chirashi as a place for the community.

Throughout the show, NSU Modern, Odori, and Kyodo Taiko’s performances demonstrated the different aspects of Japanese and Japanese American cultures and reinforced the culture night’s themes by conveying the emotions of the characters.

Performance by Kyodo Taiko. Photo courtesy of Brian Kohaya.

For example, “Tanuki Senbonzakura” by NSU Odori, “Boot Camp” by NSU Modern, and all of Kyodo Taiko’s compositions were military themed.

According to Kranz, “While the drama wasn’t openly aggressive, there was a certain amount of frustration and anger represented by the struggles each character faced whether the battle was internal or external.”

Through “Chirashi,” NSU hoped to communicate the importance of perspective, historical consciousness, and resistance to injustice through their experiences as Japanese Americans.

Today, fear-mongering against the Muslim communities in the United States is perpetuated by the signing of Executive Order 13769 on Jan. 27, following the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.

The executive order placed restrictions on refugees entering the United States, targeting  individuals coming from the countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  

It should be no surprise then that the issuance of Executive Order 13769 has spurred many Japanese American communities to stand with the Muslim communities due to similarities of propaganda used to target these groups.

It is through these conditions that the Nikkei Student Union’s Cultural Night serves as a powerful platform to share knowledge about their history to the surrounding UCLA community during these times.  

Regarding the story behind the culture night, Kranz stated that “following the recent events that have affected the political climate such as Trump’s inauguration and the executive orders limiting immigration, we decided to bring in the focus on historical consciousness through the drama.”  

Kranz, a graduating senior and a fundamental pillar in past NSU cultural nights, reflects on “Chirashi” with her hopes for future productions: “The Nikkei community has endured much struggle with the incarceration experience and has fought its way back up in society and I think [the cultural night] is the vehicle by which we can extend our voice to a wider audience and remind everyone how Japanese Americans have made their place here and feel responsible to empower other groups.”

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