Wu Chun-Te rolled a piece of putty made with flour and rice into a ball. Within minutes, he had cut and colored it to resemble a tiny rabbit holding a carrot. The dough figurines Chun-Te makes, which resemble animals, flowers and cartoon characters, are a tradition in Taiwan. Wu is part of a delegation of artists from Taiwan who are traveling to cities throughout the United States this month to promote Taiwan's heritage.
On Saturday, they participated in the Asia Society of Oklahoma's 25th annual Asian Festival, which was held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. The artists showcased a variety of traditional toys and handicrafts, including paper parasols, glass beads and bamboo toy guns.
Wang Qiu-Ren, another visiting artist, teased children with his wooden propeller toys, made from a stick the size of a pencil wrapped in wire with wooden propellers. By rubbing a stick against the toy at just the right tempo, Qui-Ren made the propellers spin. Children were mesmerized. An estimated 400 to 500 people attended the festival Saturday. In addition to the Taiwanese artists, the event also featured art and information from other Asian countries, a talent competition and a pageant. The Asia Society of Oklahoma includes nine Asian associations. The organization also hosts a Taste of Asia event in August and a banquet in November. BinRo Lee, president of the organization, said she would like the Asian Festival to become as big as the Arts Festival in Oklahoma City.
“We want Oklahoma City to be more vibrant and diverse,” Lee said. The event is about not only celebrating and preserving Asian cultures, but also about sharing them with the community, Lee said. Shaw Furukawa, 27, was part of a group that demonstrated Kendo, a Japanese martial art that uses bamboo swords. Kendo teaches discipline and respect, Furukawa said. Participants begin and end by bowing. They can strike their opponents in designated places on their chin, forearm or sides. Participants must tell their opponents where they are hitting them by yelling as they strike. They are also required to use only the top third of their sword and to use proper form. Armor helps protect against the blows, but they still hurt, Furukawa said.
Taiwanese chefs created an elaborate bouquet of roses made from carrots and beets. They used squash, watermelon rinds and onions to sculpt lily pads and frogs. Michelle Blasquez, 17, of Edmond, the former Oklahoma Junior Miss Asia, said she is fortunate to have two cultures. Blasquez grew up mostly in the United States, but her parents are from the Philippines. “When I look around, I see people of every culture,” Blasquez said Saturday. “It makes me happy to know that we're trying to learn about differences.”