Science - February 19, 2004

Otherwise organises World Wide Festival to promote integration

The sound of trumpets and guitars blares out of the speakers. Four Mexican looking women glide over the dance floor of De Bunker accompanied by music that sounds like the soundtrack to a spaghetti western. The dancers wear pink dresses with swirling skirts that are lifted by the gyrating hips underneath. The onlookers standing around the dancing women clap enthusiastically. “Aiaiaiaiiii!” screams one of the four dancers suddenly above the music.

A Chinese member of the audience takes a step back in surprise. The Mexican dance is the opening of the intercultural fashion show organised as part of the Wageningen World Wide Festival by Stichting Otherwise. Wageningen students from different countries show off their traditional costumes to the others who have come to the student bar De Bunker this Saturday evening. The models walk over a catwalk consisting of a billiards table and a few piles of beer crates that serve as steps up to and down from the catwalk.

“And now traditional clothes from India,” announces Tesfaye, the evening’s presenter. The Ethiopian student has organised this part of the festival and at a sign from him the DJ puts on a hiphop number by Punjabi MC. Meanwhile, with some difficulty, a woman in a tight long skirt climbs up on to the catwalk. With a look of relief she dances along the catwalk, twirling around so that the onlookers can see her costume. Taking the microphone in her hand she explains that her restrictive skirt is a ‘sari’: “This dress is only used for special occasions, like weddings and funerals.”

Emmy Hagenaars, coordinator at Stichting Otherwise explains that the fashion show is part of the Wageningen World Wide Festival: “The whole week there have been cultural activities for both international and Dutch students. The idea is to increase the integration between the two groups, as at present they tend to live very separately from each other,” Hagenaars says. “Many international students don’t know what is going on in Wageningen, which is a shame, as there’s such a lot that is open to them as well.”

“To let people know of the cultural activities available, Otherwise organised a kind of tour of a number of cultural clubs,” continues Hagenaar. “The theatre group at ISOW, Evropi, performed two one-act plays in the theatre ’t Hemeltje. At Movie-W four foreign films were shown one night. Tomorrow there’s an afternoon for games from various countries, including Mahjong from China and traditional Dutch ‘koekhappen’.”

Meanwhile the last models have finished on the catwalk, and some of the participants look like they have reached nirvana. Abdel Razik from Ethiopia is grinning from ear to ear. “Cultural exchange is good for the well-being. It’s good that people get a view of what other people in the world look like.” Phani Albarado on the other hand joined in ‘just for fun’. “I’m wearing clothes from Bolivia, but actually I’m from Peru.” She’s wearing a purple dress embroidered with gold and an orange hat. “It’s nice to wear clothes from your own country. That’s why I don’t understand why there weren’t any Dutch people in traditional dress.”

Teun Hofmeijer

The Mexican participants at the inter-cultural fashion show at the party ‘Show me your world’ last Saturday in De Bunker.

Re:act