Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Culture Night was cancelled. However, on March 20 and 21, BYU–Hawaii students, community members and families around the world united as they watched the introduction videos for Culture Night created by the staff at BYUH's Media Production Center.
Vidya Irene Tamang, a junior from India majoring in TESOL, shared her reaction to being able to watch the livestream Culture Night introduction videos. “I think having the Culture Night videos was a very inspired idea. I think culture is who we are. If we show people where we come from and why we do the things we do, it shows a better perspective of them and gives them a better perspective of us.”
Joshua Cocker, a senior from Tonga majoring in communications, discussed why showcasing cultures is important. He said, “One of the things that makes us unique and different from others is culture. It gives us identity and defines who we are. If it is not understood, it can divide us. One cannot come to fully understand anyone unless he or she understands the culture of which the other comes from.
“Showcasing culture is to show others who we are, along with the values and principles that our lives and actions are built upon. By educating them in this manner, they will come to a better understanding of who we are and why we act in certain ways. And with this understanding, we can learn to accept one another and live as one.”
Tamang shared her personal experience of being involved with performing in Culture Night and the gratitude she found through the decision to cancel the event. “I was the choreographer of the India Club, and I really enjoyed watching each of the short clips. For me, not performing was a little disheartening, but I know the decision was taken in the best interest of all of us.
“For me, it was the journey the Culture Night practices brought for us [rather] than the actual night because the actual day ends in just 10 minutes. But every time you meet those people for practices, you see them work hard to showcase your culture. I think it is inspiring and empowering. So, watching the livestream was a total summary of all we had gone through with each other.”
Chaille Kioa, a sophomore from Tonga majoring in social work, commented on why sharing and showcasing culture is important. She said, “I think showcasing culture is important because not only does this play a significant role to us as individuals, but also this is our identity. People all over the world have heard so much about Polynesians and think we are all the same.
“Of course, we are all God’s children, but our culture defines us. We are all unique in our own ways and we may have some commonalities. However, Culture Night gives us the opportunity to represent our small island, reflect on our ancestors, and to tell their stories and our upbringings through dance and music.”
Cocker commented on why he thought it was important the livestream of the Culture Night videos was available to still watch. He said, “I just like the fact they did not give up on Culture Night as a whole. They make the effort to at least have something to show even though it was not their fault Culture Night was cancelled.”
Tamang discussed why it is important for BYUH to showcase culture. She said, “I think it was a reminder for all of us what this school stands for and how we are such a diverse group of people, and yet it does not divide or limit us.
“In fact, each [club] and their performances had more people from outside their country and culture than themselves. In India, we are less than 20, but we had almost 60 people.”
Cocker commented on how this experience was still meaningful for him even though the event itself was cancelled. He said, “For a person who would have performed on stage for Culture Night, watching these videos gave me some kind of comfort. Although it was not the same as performing, it meant a lot.
“What meant even more to me was how much they cared for us to work hard to have something to show us. It is important to see not what is happening, but how to react to what is happening.”
Kioa talked about the meaning the livestream could have to families back in their home countries. She commented, “We also highly value the importance of this being live so our families back at home can watch. They can see that, even though we are studying in a foreign country, our roots are planted deep in our hearts and we carry it with pride everywhere we go.”