Cultural Beauty: A Conversation & Practice was a night to celebrate the beauty of diversity. The Cook Campus Center multipurpose room was transformed into a room of cultural stations of African waist beading, origami, and henna. Students wandered from station to station, experiencing the traditions of the provided stations and expressed opinions about cultural practices and beauty topics most important to them.
“This program exemplifies the diversity of women. Beading is my favorite. Each color of the bead has a meaning,” said Jenae Keith, treasurer and co-founder of the Douglass D.I.V.A.S. The Douglass D.I.V.A.S. (which stands for determined, innovative, vivacious, articulate, sisters) encourage woman empowerment, philanthropy, and community service.
In addition to the cultural stations, there were a multitude of diverse guest performances by Rutgers University Multicultural Dance Organization, Rutgers Belly Dance Troop, and executive board member, Evangelia, who sang Grecian songs.
The art of origami has origins in both China and Japan and the word origami actually stems from two Japanese words: oru, which means “to fold” and kami which means “paper”. During the Helen Period, 794-1185, Japan’s nobility had a sort of golden age which included many great artistic and cultural advances. Paper, although still a rare commodity, began to be folded into set shapes and was used for ceremonial occasions such as weddings.
The Rutgers University Multicultural Dance Organization stopped by to show off some of their moves. The purpose of their organization is to educate the Rutgers community about the connection between dance and cultural heritage. Students focus on hosting workshops throughout the year that are open to people of all kinds.
Henna can be used for both decorative and magical purposes and also has religious sanction. In the modern era, these interpretations still exist, but henna is also widely used as a form of expression of beauty and simply, just for fun.
For over 5,000 years, henna has been a symbol of good luck, health and sensuality in the Arab world. In the Muslim religion, henna is looked upon favorably as well. Legend has it that Mohamed used henna to dye his beard and that the henna flower was the prophet’s favorite.
Belly dancing is a middle eastern dance that takes many different forms depending on the country and region it is being performed in. The Rutgers Belly Dance Troupe practices both traditional and modern forms of the dance and, along the way, encourage a physically and mentally positive learning experience.
Waist beads have descended mainly from the African culture. Over the year waist beads have played a very important role in the social and cultural lifestyle of many people. They have been worn for femininity, protection, attractive, fashion, spirituality, and rites of passage completion or just to be wearing another piece of jewelry.
“I’m loving the program. The station idea is great. My family is from Ghana so it was interesting to learn about [African waist beading],” said Kimberly Penn.
Janae Keith chose the colors of green, orange, and yellow. “Green represents prosperity and hope, both of which reflect my optimism. Orange represents self-worth and self-confidence. As a woman it’s important to have these qualities be aided off the stereotypes of women. Yellow is knowledge and wisdom. Douglass D.I.V.A.S. states knowledge is power. I take my knowledge and turn it into power.”
Evangelia, a Douglass D.I.V.A., shared her musical talents by performing various Grecian songs.
By: Yegide Matthews