On Friday, April 6, OU’s International Advisory Committee (IAC) held the 48th annual Eve of Nations, a cultural showcase presented by the international student body. The IAC was established in 1970 to bring the university’s international student organizations under one umbrella, and the Eve of Nations was created with the committee’s central goal in mind: to unite, promote and increase awareness of the international community at OU. With its program of fashion, music and dance, the Eve of Nations offers an inspiring and enlightening view of the many diverse cultures represented on our campus.
For Friday’s event, which consisted of dinner, an intercultural fashion show and 13 dance and music performances, student groups worked for months choreographing, rehearsing and assembling costumes. What resulted was an incredible mosaic of cultures — not to mention a contagious feeling of enthusiasm and harmony emanating from the Lloyd Noble stage. “Thank you for sharing your cultures and traditions,” CIS Assistant Dean Dr. Rebecca Cruise said as she took the stage to kick off the program. “This university, this state, this country is better off because you’re here.”
IAC President Robert Bob Okello, a junior from Uganda, also offered some opening remarks, explaining the origins of the IAC and the importance of a night like the Eve of Nations to the OU community. “Now more than ever,” he emphasized, “our world needs global citizens with a deep international and intercultural understanding.”
The evening of celebration kicked off with a fashion show, in which students from more than 40 different countries throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas modeled the clothing of their cultures, from the traditional to the contemporary. “I’m excited because I get to represent my culture and who I am,” explained Lauren Noriega, who represented the Comanche Nation in the Americas portion of the show. “I get to show my attire and my regalia, and some people have never seen this kind of regalia before.”
This lively style showcase was merely a warm-up, however, for the climax of the Eve of Nations — the performances. Each year, student groups compete with one another for top honors, awarded by a panel of judges (comprised of OU faculty and staff) at the end of the show. This year’s top prize went to the Angolan Student Association for their high-energy, crowd-pleasing take on Kuduro, a music and dance genre the mixes hip-hop, house and traditional African and Caribbean influences that emerged in Angola during the 1980s.
The first runner-up was the Indian Student Association, who performed a trio of traditional Indian folk dances in brightly colored costumes. The choreographer of “Parampara (Traditions) of India,” OU graduate student Saurabh Agarwal, explained, “We are trying to show the diversity of India. In India, after about every 100 miles, the food, the clothing, and the language changes, and so does the dance form.” Agarwal, who has been involved with Eve of Nations in past years as well, sees it as a wonderful learning opportunity. It brings “so many traditions and cultures coming from different parts of the world to one place,” he said. “You [otherwise] don’t get to see all of that in one lifespan.”
In a slightly different twist, the second runner-up was The United World, a group that combined dances from countries in South America, Asia and Africa into one seamless whole, symbolizing the international student community’s spirit of unity. The last award, for “most creative,” went to the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, whose mesmerizing performance featured simultaneous dance and calligraphy accompanied by the Guzheng, a Chinese plucked string instrument that produces a low, haunting tone.
But the Eve of Nations is not really about competition — it is about the joy of sharing one’s culture with others. Not only was every performance throughout the night unique, every performer seemed to commit him- or herself wholeheartedly, making all a delight to watch. The evening ended with a guest performance by Munashe Mataranyika, a student from Zimbabwe, who sang a moving rendition of the song “Ndokutenda Sei,” meaning “how can I thank you.” It felt appropriate for a night of such supportiveness and generosity.
There’s a reason the Eve of Nations has been running for nearly 50 years — it’s a one-of-a-kind way to celebrate all that OU’s international student body brings to our campus. “The Eve of Nations is important because it shows the diversity and the family that we have on this campus, and that we’re all unified,” Lauren Noriega explained. “It’s a learning experience to bring us all closer together.”