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3 Malaysian races come together to celebrate shared culture

Some international students brought a piece of home to Ohio State as the first Malaysian Cultural Night took place in the Ohio Union Saturday.

About 150 people gathered in the Cartoon Room of the Union to experience the different elements of Malaysian culture.

The event featured dance performances, which represented each of the three races in the forms of a Malaysian dikir barat, a Chinese fan dance and an Indian dance.

Most of the performers were members of the Malaysian Student Association.

Amirah Ismail, a second-year in biochemistry, performed a dikir barat with about 20 other members of the Malaysian Student Association. This type of performance is characterized with synchronized song and dance movements.

Ismail said the choreography from this particular dirik barat originated from Kelantan, Malaysia, on the east coast of the peninsula.

“Different states have different types of dance,” Ismail said.

Ismail, who is from the southern part of Johor, Malaysia, said this style of dance was very different from that of her region but she enjoyed learning about a different element of her culture.

“We are proud to be of (a) multicultural country,” Ismail said. “Malaysia is very beautiful.”

Admission to the event was free, but attendees could purchase $3 tickets in exchange for the food items offered at the event.

Participants had the opportunity to sample several Malaysian dishes like Beef Rendang, beef soaked in coconut milk and served over rice; Nasi Lemak, also known as “fatty rice,” which is soaked in coconut cream; and Sirap Bandung, a beverage flavored with rose-colored syrup.

Wei Quan How, a third-year in biochemistry and member of the Malaysian Student Association, said the event was important because it helped share Malaysian culture.

“We really want Americans to know our culture,” How said.

How said Malaysia is primarily composed of three different races: Indian, Chinese and Malay.

He said the mixing of these different races is what makes Malaysian culture interesting.

Chris Butler, a third-year in biochemistry, said he was interested in the event because he has been to Malaysia on a cruise ship multiple times.

“A lot of people have not been to these countries and may never get to go to them,” Butler said. “I haven’t seen everything it has to offer.”

Butler said he most enjoyed the dance performances at the event but spreading information about Malaysian culture was also important.

“The international community does a good job of bringing their cultures and displaying them to those who may not have seen it otherwise,” Butler said. “(This event) does a very good job of highlighting … traditional Malay culture.”

Both Ismail and How said their favorite part of the event was being able to feel close to their homeland while enjoying the company of friends.

“It serves as an eye-opener to Americans so they can experience firsthand how different we are from other people,” How said. “Being so far away from home, this is the nearest you get to being with a family.” 

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