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Photo provided via Ohio University's website.

Global Arts Festival to enlighten students on diverse cultures within performing, visual arts

The second Ohio University Global Arts Festival began Monday, bringing diverse cultures to Athens and celebrating the intricacy of various artistic fields. 

The festival, which was supposed to occur in 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19, will consist of a variety of events, such as workshops, concerts, lectures and a symposium throughout the week, all leading up to the Tenth World Music and Dance Concert on Saturday. 

The festival was founded in 2019 by College of Fine Arts professors Paschal Yao Younge and Zelma Badu-Younge, who teach music and dance, respectively. The two will serve as the festival directors.

Badu-Younge said she and Younge were inspired to create the festival to provide art students with a more holistic learning experience that recognizes the unique styles of other cultures.

“We thought it would be a really good opportunity for (our students) to have a practical experience,” Badu-Younge said. “Having them interact with artists from across the world and see that not all artistic work is coming from the west, that artistic work can be coming from all different places and how them engaging artists from across the globe can also inform their work.”

Younge said the opportunity to interact with other artists from around the world will help to influence how arts students at OU understand the work of others and how it often does not differ greatly from their own works.  

“Activities of this festival introduce our students to different ways of conceptualizing the arts and potentially opening new avenues of creativity, expression, and aesthetic appreciation,” Younge said in an email. “The goal is to present a variety of musical sounds and dance movements from all over the world and thereby expand the creative experiences.”

These activities include a symposium that focuses on the arts, health, wellness and sustainable development, with various guest speakers who will comment on the topic and through the lens of the performative and creative arts.

On Saturday, the festival will conclude with the World Music and Dance Concert, which will feature the performances by The National Dance Company of Ghana, Messiah College Symphony Orchestra, Messiah College Percussion Ensemble, Azaguno Inc. New Chords on the Block, Ohio University African Ensemble and Steel Band and more.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will cost $15 for general admission but is free for students. 

Stephany Yamoah, director of the National Dance Company of Ghana, said she and the dance company arrived last week and have been working directly with the current students in the dance and music departments at OU, including a project where they are creating new costumes out of plastic bottles.

“We're here to share our culture, (and) we're here to perform,” Yamoah said. “Our mandate is to educate through the arts, to inform and also to develop our arts and culture.”

During Yamoah’s time at OU, she said the dance company will not only provide insight into Ghana’s culture but also aim to alter the perceptions that they may have of their country.

“Since we are here just for a short amount of time, most of the students who will participate in our workshops will learn our culture. They will learn our music, our dance, and they will have a chance to see what Ghana has to offer, and this will, in turn, draw them back to Africa,” Yamoah said. 

The exposure that students can have to these cultural groups, Younge said, can ultimately help them to discover new ways of constructing visual and performing arts as well as celebrate the diversity within the field. 

“Given the increasingly changing demographics of our students with more diversity and international composition of OU, there is a great potential and need of creating more opportunities for intercultural understanding, performance and appreciation of the performing arts,” Younge said in an email. “We hope the festival brings the entire university and community together … and embrace, appreciate and learn about different cultures.”

@laureneserge

ls351117@ohio.edu

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