BYU celebrates God’s love for all, highlights Asian American, Pacific Islander cultures

Dancers perform Kailao, a traditional Tongan dance. Kailao is a synchronized danced that involves the use of sticks. (Elsa Bray)

BYU’s Office of Belonging and BYU Athletics hosted their God’s Love Across Lands event on May 14 in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Month. 

The event aimed to highlight the diversity between these cultures and featured cultural music, food, dancing and other activities.

Attendees had the opportunity to visit booths representing 13 different countries, including Tonga, Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Hawaii, India, New Zealand, Thailand, Samoa, China, Vietnam, Fiji and Tahiti. 

Leonne Vakapuna and Teura Sape wear Tahitian attire. They showcased the versatile use of coconut oil at the Tahitian booth and explained how it is used for everything from keeping warm at night to serving as a lotion and moisturizer. (Elsa Bray)

Each booth offered insights into the distinct practices and traditions of these cultures. Analia Flynn, a BYU senior, shared her enthusiasm about the event’s interactive elements.

“I really liked in Korea how you could decorate your own fans. (In) China, you got to learn how to use chopsticks, so that was a cool learning experience,” Flynn said.

As part of the activities, attendees could get henna, attend live performances and chat with booth leaders about cultural artifacts.

Teura Sape, who is both Hawaiian and Tahitian, explained the differences and similarities between the two countries’ dances.

“I think when you think of Tahiti, you think of a lot of the fast dancing, the hips moving, and when people think of Hawaii, they think of the same thing, but it’s actually very different. Tahiti moves their hips more,” Sape said.

Nick Nicolls who grew up in New Zealand and attended BYU Hawaii explained the cultural significance of drumming in the Pacific islands.

“When it comes to drums, every single one has its own technique of playing. Keeping the rhythm, but there are different tones that you would apply to that total rhythm,” Nicolls said, demonstrating how the lead drum guides the entire circle while the bass maintains the rhythm that dancers follow.

Cosmo the Cougar joins in on the dancing and drumming at the Tahiti booth. He wore a lei, a customary garland often worn to signify respect, friendship or celebration. (Elsa Bray)

“I can link my family to Tahiti, Samoa, the Cook Islands and New Zealand. That’s one thing I love about our culture, it’s about relationships,” Nicolls said.

Flags line the entrance of BYU’s Office of Belonging God’s Love Across Lands event. The event was held in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Month. (Elsa Bray)

BYU junior and public health major Sariah Resolme said she appreciated the event’s inaugural recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures, especially in an environment which often lacks diversity.

“My parents are immigrants from the Philippines, but I grew up in California my whole life. I like being able to recognize my culture, which is so beautiful and being able to live it every single day is something that’s super cherishable to me,” she said.

The event gave many people the opportunity to interact with and learn about other cultures, as well as celebrate the cultures of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

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