The 21st annual Columbia International Festival brought the cultures of many countries to the State Fairgrounds this weekend.
Upon walking into the State Fairgrounds, attendees of the 2016 Columbia International Festival were greeted with the beating of African drums and transported to multiple countries around the world all at once. One arena full of tables from various countries displaying clothes, accessories and facts was adjacent to a second arena full of food from across the globe, all without leaving Columbia.
The festival is "important to show a different city without traveling. Another thing is people do not really know about any other different countries. A lot of people are from here, or people just want to fly to Europe, but they never find out about Asia, or all they hear about is from the news,” said Jinny Kim, a native of South Korea.
The festival aimed to educate attendees about different cultures and dispel stereotypes. Despite not being from Turkey, a USC journalism graduate, Delmar Roberts, became enthralled with the culture.
He said that even though Turkey might have the stereotype of being an extremely hostile place, in reality it's anything but. He talked about the culture of hospitality he experienced while there: "If you meet them, they want to entertain you, and then they’ll want to send you to all their relatives — to visit, to spend the night, that sort of thing,” Roberts said.
Edom Kidane, a native of Ethiopia, has personally encountered some stereotypes, such as someone asking her "if we had Colgate because my teeth are white," she said. However, instead of becoming angry or blameful, she uses these opportunities to spread awareness — an obvious theme of the festival.
“People have to know that Africa is not all about what you see on TV. We have some poverty, of course, but these kinds of events make the people think," she said.
The warm environment fostered acceptance of new cultures as well as a mutual respect for other ways of life outside of Columbia.
Roger Johansson, a native of Sweden, said, “This is a great festival just for the different cultures, and for the different people to see each other, and to have an understanding of the different peoples and have respect for each other even though we're all different and we're from different places."