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Haka are a variety of ceremonial dances that take place in Māori culture, which are the cultural practices of the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand. Performers are very expressive of their feelings and dance to welcome individuals, celebrate achievements and motivate people as well as many other reasons. Students were given a Haka workshop by Sol Cooper, who is the founder of Toa Haka UK, and has been bringing Haka dance to the UK with over 35 years of performing expertise. This was a very popular activity with our students, and Sol really got every single person involved!
Originating in Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, Steel Pan Drumming was played throughout the day, by local group Steel Pan in Motion. Playing some great tunes as well as covering some recent chart hits with a steel pan twist, this activity sparked the interest of our students and could be heard all around the college! Music students are currently thinking about how they could use this instrument alongside their studies.
Egyptian Belly Dancer Giorgia performed for our students in the atrium, showing them her moves to many tunes, including the Steel Pan Drumming. Some of our students even had a go for themselves, with Giorgia teaching them in small workshop groups!
In addition to Belly Dancing, we had carnival performers dance for our students in the atrium! Inspired by the carnivals of South America and the Caribbean, we had a stilt dancer who wowed our audience with her talents.
We had many foods from around the world for students to try throughout the day, representing a range of different diets and cultures. One stall educated our students about Greek food, and how the diet in Greece was traditionally based on olive oil, wheat and fish. Served throughout the day from this stall was Souvlaki, a type of Greek fast food, which consists of small pieces of meat and roasted vegetables on a skewer. To accompany these was pitta bread, french fries and Tirokroketes, which are fried cheese balls made with various cheeses including Feta and Gouda.
Our College Services Manager Maryam got involved with the day and gave students and staff temporary Henna art on their hands. Henna is a popular type of art that has been around for 9000 years, with its roots tracing back to the Middle East and Egypt. These come in a range of designs, and Maryam pretty much worked non-stop all day with queues of people wanting a design. This really allowed our students to get involved with the day, as well as appreciating the art and the hard work that it took to create!
In addition to the Haka dancing, students got to experience another element of Māori culture with Tā moko, which is a unique expression of cultural heritage and identity through tattoo. As Māori believe the head is the most sacred part of the body, facial tattoos have special significance. Thanks to Sol, students and staff got temporary tattoos on their faces, with queues just as big as they were for Maryam's Henna Art!
One of our ESOL students Oleg Shchukin is an architect, originally from Ukraine. He has been creating artwork of Charing, a village outside Ashford, with these being sold off to raise money for local refugees. These were displayed in the Refectory, hoping to be seen by all those who enter the College.
You may not know, but Conga Dancing actually comes from Cuban culture. It is a novelty line dance that was derived from a Cuban carnival dance of the same name, and became popular in the US in the 1930s and 1950s. Our students did an amazing conga during the steel pan drumming sessions, somehow getting Ashford's Mayor, Cllr Jenny Webb to get involved leading it!
Some of our students and staff represented their own cultures in the students centre, with interactive stalls and exhibits. This was a great chance for our students to learn and educate each other about where they are from, and open up conversation about different experiences of life before studying at College.