By Elena Dell'Accio, Capacity Building Intern
When thinking about the things in your life that make you feel at home, what do you think of? A family tradition or holiday, a specific recipe or drink, a song from the past, a symbol? When thinking about what played an instrumental part in creating who we are, looking at the culture we grew up in can provide insight into the factors that make us unique.
The people who have submitted to this gallery were asked to think of something that represents their cultural identity. Below you will see photos of amazing looking dishes, videos of beautiful songs, and photographs of important memories. You will also be able to read the significance that each of these items have on the individuals who submitted them, and how something that may seem like an everyday thing can have so much meaning behind it. That is where culture comes into play.
You may be asking yourself, what exactly is culture? Culture is something that many of us have heard of and are familiar with, but many of us might struggle to actually explain or describe. In a New Yorker article culture is broken down into three parts: “there is culture as a process of individual enrichment, as when we say that someone is “cultured” … Culture as a group's particular way of life….and culture as an activity pursued by means of the museums, concerts, books and movies…”. As you look through the gallery, I invite you to ask yourself how each submission falls under this specific definition, and how you would express your own culture.
Leo Leo Lee
Cultural ties: Hispanic
"Leo Leo Lee is a song I heard playing my whole life"
Babi Nicaraguense | Cultures connected to: Nicaragua - My mother is from Nicaragua, and one of the traditional dishes to cook is Baho! We cook it in banana leaf, and it includes beef, plantains, and Yuca. It’s also topped with a salad like mix. Every time we get together with our Tia’s that’s the first dish to wake up to cooking in the kitchen:) I love my culture and our island style of cooking!
Zutaten | Cultures connected to: European/Swiss and American - This is a common food staple in Switzerland, especially in Zurich (where I live). Its something you can find in practically any Swiss restaurant, from the restaurants up on the mountains seemingly in the middle of nowhere to expensive restaurants in 5 star hotels in Zurich. I chose it as it's one of my favourite dishes and I feel immediately at home when I eat it!
Bûche de Noël | Cultures connected to: American, French, Scandinavian/ Norwegian, German - The Bûche de Noël or Yule Log is a cake made around Christmas time but particularly for the winter solstice in most north Western European countries. It represents when families used to light a real log and had to keep it lit all night to prevent demons and evil spirits from entering the house through the chimney. - Céleste
Every fall, my grandma, mom, aunt, and I buy bushels of roasted green chiles and prepare it for the year to come. We peel them, grind them up, portion it, and freeze it to have ready for our favorite dishes all year round. The whole house smells like chiles for days after we do this. It's one of my favorite traditions and brings in our culture through food and being together.
Cultral Ties: Judaism
"The song I attached, Is a pray the Jewish people are saying on Friday night, when they “welcome” Shabbos which is the holy day, and a rest day for Jewish people. The song speaks about to holiness of the day, that people should remember it, and prepare for that day with their best outfit as this is a very special day."
Dominic the Donkey
Cultures connected to: Italian and American
"Christmas is an important time for Italians ."
Cultural Ties: Canada
"This is a French song of a women from Acadie in Canada that was separted from her love because of an invasion in the area. Her resilience through her grief is memorialized. Canadian history, female empowerment and music are all meaningful to me and important aspects of this song."
Cultures connected to: Southern African coloureds.
"When I think of culture, i think of my social identity ethnically connected to colouredas. these are a ,multiracial people group from Bantu and European people. And is a legally. defined racial. group during Apartheid. But it. is because of Apartheid that they were able to establish their own culture, language and identity. Now, Growing up just 30 yrs after Apartheid, I know the general scar. of oppression and violence, on the basis of race. So when I left for my studies to America, I became conflicted. with my racial identity. How could I say coloured when the very word is ostracized. But i decided to still proudly identify with it, my roots is all I have left."
- Eusebio Omar van Reenen
Whether you are new to the United States, grew up in the United States with a multicultural background, have experience with being face to face with a new culture, or are interested in learning more about other cultures and creating a welcoming community, theories on inter-cultural engagement may be helpful. The model below offers two examples of helpful ways to understand what happens when people engage with different or multiple cultures. Click each heading below to learn more about the models.
Cultural Adjustment model
The Cultural Adjustment model first created by Sverre Lysagaard is one that is often used today to describe the patterns that people go through when adapting to a new environment. It is thought of having 3 distinct phases. Starting off with:
Developmental model of intercultural sensitivity
Another important model to be aware of when thinking about culture and adapting to new cultures is Milton J Bennett's Developmental Model of Intercultural sensitivity. This model speaks to the process one goes through when they are face to face with a new culture, starting in an ethnocentric stage (the view that one's own culture is the standard and all others are compared to it) and moving to an ethnorelative stage (the understanding that cultures are relative to each other and that behaviors are to be understood within a cultural context) (Bennet, Milton J. 1993). Bennett describes these stages as follows:
REFLECTION QUESTION: If you are not someone who has had to resolve being a part of multiple cultures yourself, have you ever experienced being face to face with multiple cultures at once? Can you imagine some difficulties and benefits that come with it? If you are someone who is connected to multiple cultures, can you think of the specific things you did to help consolidate the two cultures? What does being multicultural mean to you and how might you best embrace and share your cultural identity