SASA Puts Cultures on Center Stage
by Catharine Richert

Tonight, the South Asian Students Association is putting on their annual cultural show, Mizaaj, which will incorporate dance, poetry, drama and song in order to present various aspects of South Asian culture.
Sophomore Shahana Siddiqui has participated in the cultural show for two years. “[The show] is basically a space for those of us of South Asian heritage to come together a and perform something that is a part of our heritage, that is a part of our ancestry,” Siddiqui said. Although not all South Asian countries are represented on campus, Siddiqui feels that Mizaaj is a taste of South Asian culture rather than a detailed representation. “We always, always keep in mind that people of South Asian heritages are very diverse and we’re very different. We do share that one common bond of coming from the same region,” Siddiqui said.
Indeed, the varied backgrounds of the show’s participants bring many perspectives to the showcase. “What makes this show really interesting is that there are both South Asian international students like myself as well as South Asian Americans who were brought up here,” junior Radin Ahmed said.
The diversity that Siddiqui mentioned has been carried over into the repertoire of the performance. “This year’s show is very diverse,” Ahmed said. “We haven’t really had skits before, so we’ll have a couple of skits as well as traditional song and dance.” Spoken word will also be included in the show for the first time. “Eggshells,” the skit in which Ahmed performs, is about a middle-class South Asian family and the clash between the conservative mother and her sons and daughter-in-laws.
Junior Aneeqa Kayani will be singing a song from the movie Mission Kashmir called “Bhumbro.” Kayani hopes to show that South Asian culture is not as traditional as it is perceived to be. “It’s a good way of uniting us South Asians and showing Oberlin College what South Asian culture is all about, the very traditional culture and what South Asians are modernized to be,” she said.
While participants feel it is important to represent their heritage as accurately as possible, they also hope the show serves as an educative yet entertaining program for the audience. As can be seen from the modern nature of Kayani’s piece, she hopes the show will deconstruct stereotypes of South Asian culture. “I hope the audience realizes that South Asia has developed with the rest of the world and it has modernized, yet it has managed to keep its culture very much alive,” Kayani said.
Sophomore Sehban Zaidi did not participate in the cultural show last year because he wanted to experience his first year of college detached from any aspect of his heritage. “I was trying to find my own feet outside of that region,” Zaidi said. “But this year I realized the significance of the cultural show. In light of what happened on Sept. 11, every culture from that part of the world [South Asia] has been shown in a very negative context. A lot of people have the wrong views, took tradition to mean religion and religion to mean culture. I feel like it’s our duty to educate people and put stuff out there so they can realize it themselves,” he said.
Zaidi also hopes the show will provide some cheerful, fun entertainment for the Oberlin community, something that is often missing from many campus performances. “It’s done in a very lighthearted tone. I feel like that’s something always missing from Oberlin: humor. People take themselves very seriously,” he said.

Mizaaj will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9, in Warner Concert Hall.

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