Tejas Nair of the Indian Israj performs in the Culinary building for Food & Faith program. Photo credit: Alex Delaney-Gesing | The Collegian

Tejas Nair of the Indian Israj performs in the Culinary building for Food & Faith program. Photo credit: Alex Delaney-Gesing | The Collegian

Alex Delaney-Gesing
Assistant Editor

When Janice Lui began to play the beginning chords of a four-part cultural folk tale with the Chinese violin in her hands, the room was silent. Filled with nearly 160 attendees, the first session of Interfaith Food and Music / Dance Performance proved to be an instantaneous success.

On Nov. 12 and 14, Lorain County Sacred Landmarks Initiative hosted the ”Seeking the Sacred of Asia” events at LCCC’s Ben and Jane Norton Culinary Arts Center. The organization is an “educational outreach program that aims to research and document the history, art, and architecture of Lorain County’s houses of worship and to sponsor educational and fine arts programming that celebrates the religious experience of Lorain County’s residents,” according to their homepage at sli.lorainccc.edu.

“[The] purpose of the project [was] to introduce Asian traditional religions and cultures through performing arts and food demonstration [and] therefore, to expose the community to expanded arts and cultural-religious experiences to stimulate creativity and knowledge,” said Young Woon Ko, associate professor in the department of philosophy and religion at LCCC as well as the director of Sacred Landmarks Initiative.

The first evening’s session focused on the Chinese Confucianism / Daoism(Taoism) culture, Cambodian Buddhism, Korean Ancestral Rite, and Japanese Shintoism through the use of performances and presentations.

A musical number featuring a two-stringed, bowed musical instrument similar to a fiddle called the ‘Chinese erhu’ was followed by dancers in artfully decorated masks performing a Korean Talchum Dance that was presented by Giyoung Lee, Irene Change and Woojin Jeon.

Three types of classical Cambodian music called ‘Takhe and Tro’, traditionally performed at various celebrations / holidays. The musical pieces were played by Em Sovan and Sou Hoeuth through the use of two stringed instruments special to the Cambodian culture.

Following the musical performances, three speakers presented topics on different Asian cultures.

Dr. Yizhen Wang, a professor working with Cleveland State University’s Confucius Institute, presented on the Chinese Confucianism / Daoism traditional opera and folk culture. Mr. Born Nai, the current vice president of the Cambodian-American Buddhist Association focused on an overlay of Buddhism in Cambodia.

The final presentation of the night was by LCCC’s Professor Ko. He spoke on the subject of Korean Ancestral Rites and Japanese Shintoism. The event ended with a food tasting of several sweet and savory dishes from assorted countries and cultures, including Japan, Korea, China and Cambodia.

The second session consisted of the Indian culture, including Hinduism and Jainism. With slightly less than 100 attendees, the event began with a musical performance by Tejas Nair of the Indian Israj.

The music he performed, he claimed, was adapted from traditional South Indian music in replication of the human voice. By using a ‘tabla’ (an instrument similar to bongos), he played two musical pieces originally performed in the courts of the noble Indian empire.

Classically-trained dancer Pooja K. Shyam, who performed two ‘Bharata Natyam’ dances came next. This type of classic dance originated in the temples of India and generally pays tribute to the Indian deity Lord Shiva, Shyam said.

Dr. Ramaswamy Sharma, a practicing vedic scholar in Hindu scriptures and adjunct member of Cleveland State University was the final speaker. His presentation detailed Indian vegetarian food in relation to the cultures of Hinduism and Jainism.

The event ended with food tastings from the various cultures of India.