On February 13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures will host the 29th annual Asian Festival, offering guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in an environment where cultural practices are all around them. The Asian Festival is about experiential learning – learning by doing – and getting people excited about this important part of their collective heritage.
Texas has a significant Asian influence in its fabric and foundation. Asian cultures helped build railroads across the state. They were allies as General Pershing carried out his hunt for Pancho Villa. They formed tight communities and built great businesses, from agriculture, to industry, to modern medicine and science. And through the past hundred-plus years, the Asian cultures of Texas have kept their own culture and heritage alive, passing traditions to new generations.
A whole pantheon of cultures and customs came to Texas as Asian peoples made their way across the state. The continent itself has a diverse set of cultures, from the Indian sub-continent, to mainland China, to the Southeastern peninsula nations, to the islands of the Pacific. So the festival is more than a Chinese New Year celebration: it’s a celebration of all Asian cultures that have shared their heritage, customs and traditions with Texas.
Festival goers can expect two stages with music and dance, a martial arts demonstration area, a children’s activities tent, demonstration kitchen, lecture halls, classrooms, galleries and more. Some of the festival’s hidden gems include lectures, such as Korean folklore and Chinese medicine; a performance of Kamishibai, a Japanese form of storytelling; a Mah-jongg game, with experienced players teaching its intricacies to anyone who would like to learn; the arts of Bonsai and Ikebana flower arrangement; and viewings of Japanese-style animation, known as animé.
The festival is an immersive environment and attendees can get excited about the experiences the day holds. Excitement comes from seeing elaborate costumes and watching skilled performers dance or carry out martial arts exercises. It comes from hearing music and language, stories and lectures covering topics from folklore to medicine and more. It comes from the smell and taste of exotic foods and learning how to prepare them. The Asian Festival is a day of opportunity for learning, enjoyment and pride in an aspect of our Texan identity.
UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures is an important space for Arts and Culture in San Antonio. Museums have a reputation as unconventional learning institutions because of the way they present information. Where books can stimulate someone on an intellectual level, it takes hands-on participation and experience to build an emotional connection and truly grasp an idea.
The Asian Festival brings culture to life. It’s an event uniquely suited to the Institute of Texan Cultures’ mission to enhance the community’s understanding and appreciation of the arts and culture, and to educate on the importance and uniqueness the many cultures play in defining San Antonio’s character.
Details on the 2016 festival are available here, along with links to ticketing, the event schedule, map of the grounds and menu of foods being offered. The museum encourages use of VIA Park & Ride services from the Crossroads location. Anyone interested in following along or sharing information and images from the event can use the #TXasian tag on social media, Tweet @TexanCultures, or follow TexanCultures on Instagram.