28th annual Malaysian Cultural Night draws 400 to the Great Hall

Students Loo Yee Wong, Sydney Teh, Edward Chooi, Tee Chon Yew, Hui Yee Tan, Kei Lee Wong and Jane Yee Kong perform a traditional dance at the Malaysian Culture Festival in the Memorial Union on Sunday night.

Zhe (Mia) Wang

Malaysian Cultural Night took the center stage of the Great Hall in the Memorial Union and attracted more than 400 students and staff on Sunday night.

Malaysian Cultural Night is an annual event organized by the Association of Malaysian Students at ISU (AMSISU), and it has been hosted since 1986.

Jin-Yew Lim, junior in biological systems engineering and president of AMSISU, said the purpose of having Malaysian Cultural Night is not only to share the culture, but also for Malaysians to show their love and affection toward their country.

“It’s not because we want to share the culture, so we share the culture,” Lim said. “Deep inside, it’s about how much we love our country.”

Sunday’s event started with a series of Malaysian cultural performances, including Lion Dance, Malaysian band performances and the Dikir Barat, a traditional Malaysian performance featuring folk dancing and singing.

Performers from AMSISU also made sure to wear their traditional apparel to perform the dance and song.

The event’s theme was “Pasar Malam, A Night in the Market,” meaning people had the freedom to walk around and participate games and cultural booths while enjoying authentic Malaysian cuisine.

This year is also the first time AMSISU came up with the coupon system. Attendees received five coupons initially when they entered Great Hall. Then everyone had the opportunity to win five extra coupons through participating games and interacting at the cultural booths.

“We do coupons because we want people to interact with us,” Lim said. “Our purpose is not to make their life difficult. It focuses more on the cultural exchange.”

Uguru Chidiebere, junior in architecture, is from Nigeria. She said as an international student herself, she tries to attend as many international and cultural events as she can.

“People at Iowa State don’t just come from one place and have the same culture,” Chidiebere said. “Having events like this is to know more about who you are with and to enjoy what makes them them.

“If there are so much diversity in the world, why shouldn’t you enjoy it.”

John Wong is an associate professor in marketing. He is also the adviser of AMSISU and has been for 35 years. He said he witnesses many changes in Malaysian students throughout the decades, especially with students’ confidence.

“Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen Malaysian students that reflected the economic and social development in Malaysia,” Wong said. “Thirty years ago, students tended to be much more tentative and less self-confident. Over the past 15 years, students have shown great leadership and organizational skills.”

Wong also said he encourages students in his classes, especially Iowans, to go to cultural events at Iowa State. He also suggested Malaysian students get out of their comfort zone and befriend local students.

“You’ve got four years [at Iowa State]. Try to have a rich cross cultural experience,” Wong said.

Another effect Sunday’s event had was that it evoked many Malaysian students’ homesickness. Amal Hazura Azlan Hanif is a senior in geology. She said the Dikir Barat performance makes her miss Malaysia a lot.

“The performance is really hard to do, and it’s really loud and engaging,” Azlan Hanif said. “It really makes me homesick.”

Toward the end of the night, students from AMSISU started Magunatip dance with the crows, which is an interactive dance form originated from Eastern Malaysia.

The dance involves jumping steps that maneuver the dancer’s feet in and out, so as not to get their feet trapped by two moving bamboo poles, which were substituted by two water pipes. The pipes were held by another pair of dancers, who beat the pipes together creating a vibrant rhythm.

“The event turned out much better than I expected. It was a great cultural exchange experience for everyone. I’m really surprised and happy right now,” Lim said.