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GLOBAL OPEN HOUSE : Kaleidoscope Festival Opens the Door on Ethnic Communities in Our Back Yard

July 29, 1993|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

There are plenty of points on which adults and kids disagree, but curiosity about unfamiliar things and people is common to all ages. It prompts adults to spend $20 to nose around strangers' houses on a charity tour of homes and explains a child peering through a neighbor's living room window or rummaging uninvited through a new playmate's toy box.

The methods vary, but the message is clear: If you want a clue about other people's lifestyles, you have to get a good look at their stuff.

At this weekend's Kaleidoscope Festival, families can do that on a global scale. On Saturday and Sunday, representatives of almost every ethnic group in the county will host a kind of multicultural open house, throwing open the doors of their culture through exhibits, demonstrations, food and performances. The festival, an event staged every other year and hosted by the Multicultural Arts Council of Orange County, runs 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days.

In the American Turkish Assn. of Southern California's pavilion, guests will be invited to lounge on Turkish carpets and kilim rugs in a re-creation of an Ottoman sultan's tent as they nibble pistachios and lokum candy, refresh themselves with a splash of lemon cologne or have their fortunes gleaned from the grounds of their Turkish coffee. Live music will be played both days, and a folk dance group may perform outside the tent.

The entertainment and refreshments are typical courtesies that Turks have shown to guests for centuries and are a way to give outsiders a closer view of the Turkish culture, explained Zeynep Ucer, the association's vice president of cultural activities.

"The reason we chose an open tent is that we wanted people to walk in freely and comfortably," said Ucer, "to be a part of the culture, rather than just look in from the outside.

"Ours has been a very historic, very rich culture for thousands of years. This will give others a sample of where we come from."

The Kaleidoscope Festival was established in 1989 as a closing event for the Orange County centennial celebration, said event chairwoman Catherine Thyen, and is the nonprofit group's way to "teach the populace at large by giving them a small taste of (the county's varied) cultures and to give those cultures a chance to show themselves."

Although it has always been considered a family event, Thyen said this year's organizers have attempted to involve more children by establishing a separate children's pavilion. Activities there will include international folk tales performed by the South Coast Storytellers Guild, crafts and Native American stories, dances and bead-stringing workshops led by the Southern California Indian Center.

Children, in fact, are one of the main reasons MAC was founded, Thyen said. Since 1985, MAC's Treasure Chest program has helped educate students about the county's diversity through traveling exhibits of artifacts and printed material, which are provided free for classroom use. Currently, there are six different Treasure Chest collections (Japanese/Chinese, Judaica, African-American, Iranian, Mexican-American and Asian-Indian); an Armenian collection is in the works.

At the festival, the collections will be showcased in one of three Cultural Galleries; the others will feature visual art by ethnic artists and an exhibit of international costumes. Models in a variety of Mexican and Latin American costumes will stroll the grounds.

The Turks are not the only ethnic group to ascribe to the open-house philosophy. Japanese-Americans will perform the traditional Chado tea ceremony and demonstrate the skills of ikebana (flower arrangement), bonsai (miniature trees) and kimekomi ningyo (handcraft dolls) inside a mock-up of a Japanese tea house. Irish-Americans will host music, poetry and dance presentations outside an Irish "cottage," and Iranian-Americans will re-create a Persian teahouse.

In other pavilions, African-Americans will offer hair weaving and verbal presentations of African cultural myths by the Daughters of Isis; the Mexican-American committee will re-create a "Day of the Dead" altar, and the Jewish-American council will use a display of dolls to illustrate Jewish traditions.

On both afternoons, visitors may also attend re-enactments of a traditional Asian-Indian wedding. And on Sunday only, African-Americans will host a mock wedding ceremony introduced by a performance by the Djimbe drummers.

A wide range of musicians, storytellers and dancers will perform continuously on two stages at the festival. They include Ramya Harishanker, presenting the classic Indian dance form, bharata natyam; Peruvian dance and music by Matices Peruanos, and the Fenians Irish quartet. Also featured will be Girls Lately, an R&B hip-hop group; storyteller Ellaraino; Lac Hong's Vietnamese orchestra, and the Daion Taiko Japanese drummers.

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