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ISSUE 121 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2008

Asian cultures honored

By Mara Fink
Associate Editor

Friday, April 11, 2008

St. Olaf students are getting a taste of life on the opposite side of the globe as Asia Weeks brings Asian culture and social issues to the forefront in a two and a half week celebration.

"We want to offer students a chance to glimpse the enormous diversity of Asia and we want to provide a chance for students to promote social justice issues in Asia; because those issues affect the whole world in one way or another," co-chair of the Asian Cultures Association Ananya Mukhopadhyay '10 said.

Asia Weeks began Apr. 2 and continued throughout the past week with activities including a speaker about healthcare practices in Asia, an Asian Trivia Contest, and most notably a dance featuring C-pop and J-pop music.

Still to come as part of Asia week is a Dialogue on Tibet, showings of the movie "The Kite Runner" Saturday and Sunday, and the closing extravaganza Tuesday. This event will feature information on Asia, and Asian food and performance.

In the past, the focus has been on cultural awareness, but this year, co-chair of the Asian Cultures Association Deanna Tollefson '10 says one of the main goals of the weeks is to raise awareness of the social justice issues facing the continent right now. "Asia is such a happening place. It's developing but with that comes a lot of problems," she said.

One of these issues is the conflict in Tibet, and tonight's discussion will include dialogue with students of both Chinese and Tibetan background. Another issue addressed by the weeks is the lack of education amongst women in Vietnam. All proceeds as well as any donations received throughout the weeks will go to the Catalyst Foundation, created by a Northfield resident, that gives scholarships for those women in Vietnam who would otherwise be sold into the sex slave trade. The goal of the program is to provide education for these women, which will in turn make them literate and give them a chance at a better life.

Another emphasis of the weeks is the extreme diversity of culture that covers the Asian continent. " If you think North America is diverse it's nothing compared to Asia because in North America there is a trend of assimilation. There isn't that dictation in Asia," Mukhopadhyay said.

Asia weeks is run by the Asian Cultures Association in partnership with the Hmong Culture Outreach, Korean Culture Association, Diversity Celebrations Committee and Multicultural Affairs and Community Outreach.

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