It was really a perfect coming together of the different ethnicities and cultures during the vibrant and colourful mini Malaysian Food and Cultural Fest staged by a group of full-time on-campus learning (OCL) students of Wawasan Open University.
The event today was a roaring success as evidenced by the crowd of satisfied staff, armed with loads of foods purchased for lunch and as take-away snacks. The ground floor foyer of the Albukhary Building was creatively transformed into hawker-style stalls, complete with posters depicting the cultural history of foods and offering narratives of the Peranakan culture and various festivals, including Deepavali, Vaisakhi, Holi, Dragon Boat Festival and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
The fest is part of the assessment for the students who are taking the Comparative Religions or the Cross Cultural Intelligence courses. The proceeds from the sale will go towards activities organised by the OCL Student Council. About 60 full-time students are currently pursuing either of the two courses in this semester.
In his address, Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye was full of praise for the exquisitely decorated booths and the students who came beautifully clad in traditional attires. “One word comes to mind immediately, and that is DIVERSITY… diversity in food, diversity in culture. This truly reflects ethnic diversity, something we should all treasure,” he stressed.
“Diversity is Malaysia’s greatest strength and asset. Our diverse languages, food, music, the clothes we wear, and our festivals. This uniqueness is to be celebrated and enjoyed together by all segments of our society. It is our way of saying that we value the differences in our people, whether languages, religions, cultures, skills, attitudes or experiences,” Prof Ho remarked.
He said that the fest is a good reminder of “the beauty of living in a multi-ethnic country” and highlighted the need to maintain this unity in diversity, of accepting, respecting and celebrating our differences. He declared that with diversity, Malaysians have the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the diverse range of foods and the rich culture.
He elaborated that the two WOU courses allow the students to gain a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of our country’s diversity and social cultural heritage. “Studying together enables them to learn from their course mates of different ethnic backgrounds,” he said, adding that the experience of organising the fest is good training for the students, as the lessons learned will prepare them for work and life in the real world after graduation.
Prof Ho congratulated the Deputy Dean/Senior Lecturer of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jasmine Emmanuel, for initiating and mentoring the students in this project. In his short speech, event coordinator Muhammad Farid Arsyad Foad attributed the success of the festive event to good teamwork.
Following a simple ribbon-cutting ceremony by Prof Ho to launch the fest, the booths were opened for business. Among the foods sold were char mee hoon, pandan cake, kuih bauhulu, cecodok, nyonya kuih, satay, briyani rice, capati, Indian snacks, herbal jelly, chicken rice dumpling, red bean soup, sandwich, and Christmas cookies.