International Festival’s cultural booths offer educational experiences
WORTHINGTON (The Globe) — Representatives of many nations will converge in downtown Worthington for this year’s International Festival. These representatives, though, aren’t special envoys from the United Nations — they’re our neighbors, coworkers and friends.
Some of these Worthingtonians — whether they hail from Scandinavia or the Horn of Africa — will provide the community with a friendly, educational look into aspects of their culture and traditions.
As is tradition, Worthington residents representing many cultures and countries will have booths where interested festival-goers can learn and connect. One of these booths will be headed by Ayayou Bejacka, representing the Oromo people of Ethiopia.
“The Oromo are the majority in Ethiopia — almost 52 percent of the population,” explained Bejacka. He also explained that another ethnic group that comprises only six percent of the country’s population rules the government, which often leads to strife and unfair treatment of the Oromo.
After leaving Ethiopia behind and coming to the United States in 1991, Bejacka soon found his way to Worthington and became one of its earlier Oromo residents. He now works both for the local UFCW 1161 union at JBS and as a translator for Sanford in Worthington.
“When I came here in 1996, over 20 years ago, there weren’t too many (Oromo) people here. About 10 years ago, people started to arrive, and we started to build a community,” Bejacka said.
In the past decade, the community has grown significantly, which eventually sparked the creation of an Oromo cultural booth at the International Festival a few years ago. This year, Bejacka said, the Oromo booth will feature a wide variety of culturally significant objects.
“We are going to bring all the cultural stuff — pillows, plates, clothes, wedding clothes — all made back home in Ethiopia. We will put it all on a table so people can see it, and put pictures on the tables about governance, wedding customs, and more,” detailed Bejacka, while adding that there will be English-translated information cards about the items for people to read.
A popular highlight of the Oromo booth is the coffee ceremony, said Bejacka.
“We will do the Oromo coffee ceremony as well. In our culture, in Ethiopia, the people like coffee, and it’s very popular — Ethiopia is a major coffee producer. That’s why we try to show that it’s part of our culture, and it’s just great; we cannot forget that even when we come to the United States,” said Bejacka with a smile.