Festival celebrates Burmese culture on campus

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The Spirit and Place Festival, held on Nov. 13 in the Schwitzer Student Center, celebrated Burmese culture, while also looking at some of the struggles that the Burmese people deal with.

“I really am very much wanting people from Indianapolis to become familiar with the Burmese community that lives in Indianapolis now because we have over 10, 000 Burmese [citizens], which is a very significant and big population, and I want the people of Indianapolis to know that,” said Jane Gehlhausen, director of International Affairs and Cultural Affairs for the city of Indianapolis and keynote speaker for the Spirit and Place event.  “Vice versa I would like the Burmese who are here tonight to become more familiar and get more integrated in our broader community.”

Group of Burmese boys with Director Pu Ca Hmung on the podium perform a Chin cultural folklore song during the 19th annual Spirit and Place Festival on Thursday, Nov. 13 in the Schwitzer Student Center in UIndy Hall. Photo by Artemis Choungk

Group of Burmese boys with Director Pu Ca Hmung on the podium perform a Chin cultural folklore song during the 19th annual Spirit and Place Festival on Thursday, Nov. 13 in the Schwitzer Student Center in UIndy Hall. Photo by Artemis Choungk

Students who attended the event were able to receive lecture/performance credit. Other students volunteered to help with setting up and with directing other students around the festival.

“For regular students here at the University of Indianapolis, this event is to promote the culture of the Burmese Chin,” said School for Adult Learning student and community health and education major Diana Hendricks, who was one of the event student volunteers. “There’s a lot of students here within the Chin community and its just multicultural, getting the students and the residents who live around the area more familiar with what the Chin community does and what its all about.”

According to Hendricks, the number of refugees who have migrated to Indiana is about 17,551.  Of that population, 6,986 have settled in various communities around the Indianapolis area.

“To me personally, the event is important because it’s helping people to understand the Burmese Chin moving to the Indianapolis area, the struggle that they are facing with their culture, what was easy for them over there [in Burma], what is easy over here for the Burmese, what’s not so easy for the Burmese, to actually cumulate into the community,” Hendricks said.

According to Hendricks, the Burmese people face a lot of pros and cons about living in the United States.  For example, they are allowed to practice Christianity out in the open, but are not as able to have many of the social events that occurred in Burma.

Burmese student and international business major Anna Sung Tial said that this event meant a lot to her.

“I think that it’s a really good opportunity to expose the Burmese culture to the Americans who go here,” she said. “For example, at this university there are only a few Burmese students that are attending currently, but I don’t think that a lot of the Americans know us. And I think that this event will expose us to the Americans and maybe more Burmese students will come here.”

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