If someone was to walk into the Student Centre when the festivities of Trent’s first Cultural Day were about to begin, the aroma of food being generously distributed would have been hard to miss. Aluminum lids were peeled off tins that filled the space with the mouth-watering scent of rice, kebab, falafel and fragrant sauces.
Ruth Wallace, a first-year B.B.A. and B.A. joint major in business and politics, led the initiative that brought this vibrant event to life. Through her role on Otonabee College cabinet as Cultural Artist Representative, Wallace was encouraged by her fellow cabinet members to pursue her original idea in collaboration with the other colleges.
She explained to Arthur that Trent Cultural Day was initially envisioned as a week-long event with various opportunities for students to drop in on workshops and activities. The event launched this year with hopes of gradually growing towards the vision of a Trent Culture Week. Wallace spoke fondly of the concept as something akin to Orientation Week and Trent Mudder in that she hopes it could become something people would anticipate each year.
The delicious food on display was catered by Oasis Mediterranean Grill (located on 460 George St N), which was provided in collaboration with the TCSA. Wallace offered warm welcomes to anyone who stopped by, offering them food as well as information about the different workshops being offered in the event space of The Student Centre.
The first event was a henna workshop and Arthur sat down with one of the workshop leaders, Maimoona Altaf, a Lady Eaton College representative for the event. Altaf explained the importance of henna to her Pakistani heritage: “I’ve grown up with henna, it’s a very important part of my culture, and I’m thrilled to share it with students on campus.” When she wasn’t assisting those participating in the workshop with their henna application, she was admiring it on the hands of others and encouraging their craftsmanship.
Altaf didn’t hesitate when asked about why the workshop was an important one to include in the event.
“Henna is no stranger to cultural appropriation,” she began matter-of-factly, “and I just wanted to shine a light on the cultural significance of henna and emphasize its importance on Cultural Day.”
Trent Visual Arts Network (TVAN) provided arts supplies for the rock painting workshop that followed; Trent African Caribbean Student Union hosted an energetic socacize class; the Indigenous songs and drumming workshop was presented by Trent University Native Association in collaboration with First Peoples House of Learning; and the Organization for Hispanic and Latino Awareness hosted a lively salsa dance class. It was great to see so many members of the Trent community involved in the organization of the event.
Wallace elaborated on this when asked how Trent Cultural Day impacted her experience as a first-year student: “There was certainly lots of pressure to do well in all areas and just as many expectations. I would recommend delegating tasks and asking for help when you need it.”
She mentioned that the planning process for the event consisted of weekly progress meetings with the other college representatives.
Wallace concluded with the message she’d like people to take away from the event, saying, “Cultural appreciation and the idea that culture unites us is a powerful one. There’s a way to respectfully share in and learn from the cultures of others.”