Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Delightfully Decolonized

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou to all you Hip Hapa Homeez! That’s Hawai’ian for Happy New Year, and we’re so HAPA that you’re sharing 2012 with us.

Please join our discussion forum group, Hip Hapa Homeez, on Facebook where we keep it real. For sure, you will never be bored with our multiple interactive postings that focus on multiracial folks, transracial adoptees, interracial relationships, and those who cross cultures.

And, if you’d like to contribute your support to our Watermelon Sushi feature film, check out Hapa*Teez t-shirts. Every purchase earns you a rear crawl credit on the movie. Both the Watermelon Sushi film and Hapa*Teez t-shirts have their own Facebook fan pages. So, please click “like”.

Andye Andinha Niakan
Speaking of the film, Watermelon Sushi is fortunate to have the assistance of several Associate Producers located around the world. In the past, we’ve highlighted some as our featured Hip Hapa Homee on this blog, and this month we’d like to present another. Meet Andye Andinha Niakan with the International Business and Cultural Exchange and Raqs Atlanta & African Asian Exchange of Atlanta. What a busy girl!

Andye, standing 2nd from left, at dance workshop
Q: Andye, what’s a nice, multiethnic woman like you doing being involved in so many social justice issues?

A: I've always been involved with social clubs, international community groups, culture clubs…you name it. I am a social butterfly. I feel most comfortable when I'm surrounded by other international individuals who speak multiple languages. My parents are to be credited for that.

My mother is Portuguese American and my dad is Nigerian. All of my relatives and my parents' friends encouraged me to be very proud of my cultures and never be intimidated by stereotypical expectations of those cultures.

Q: Whoa! You speak five languages! What are they, and don’t you ever get confused?

A: At home I speak a mix of French, Portuguese and some Arabic thrown in. My mother has always tried to get me to speak more Spanish and now that I am with a Spanish-speaking news network, I use it everyday. I do not use English unless I have to. I do use it a lot when interacting with large groups and, yes, the confusion comes when writing. I often forget how to spell things in English so the words look a little French or Spanish at times. Fortunately, I am working and living with multi-lingual people, and it’s overlooked.
Raqs Sharqi

Q: How did you develop your passion for bellydance?

A: I developed a passion for Raqs Sharqi (bellydance) when I got closer to my cousins who danced all the time. Every party, every gathering they were doing Raqs. It’s a traditional dance from the Middle East and Africa. Colonialism has left it being called "bellydance”, but the official name for it is Raqs Sharqi or Raqs Beladi (dance of my country or dance of my land). I could go on all day about it. It’s one of the most enriching forms of dance in the world. With a complex history, the dance has had a huge impact on music and entertainment worldwide. I don't think a day goes by that I’m not involved in Raqs in some form or fashion--from helping promote big Raqs conferences to helping bellydance costume designers create outfits that fit the up and coming trends with respect to the traditions.

Q: Tell us about your involvement with Raqs Al Sharqi International.

A: Raqs Al Sharqi International is now owned by their parent company African Asian Business and Cultural Exchange. We founded RASI back in 1998 when we saw that there was so much misrepresentation in African and Asian music and dance. We wanted to provide a cultural education and dance shows that served the international community. After 14 years, we're really far into it by traveling and meeting with musicians, major Raqs stars and getting to know rising international community men and women who wish to represent the dance. I am in full force behind every step they make, and I spend a lot of time researching and promoting the best of the industry.

Q: What about the African Asian Exchange—with its goal to recreate the bond between African and Asian communities that existed pre-colonial times?

A: The African Asian Business and Cultural Exchange (often called the African Asian Exchange for short) is all about making connections. We want to connect all African and Asian businesses by attending as many events as possible and by gathering contact info and relaying it to those who need the many different services that our community, as a whole, provides. We recently began adding a few European-based groups who have shown interest or have majorly supported African and Asian businesses. We won't lose our identity as Africans and Asians, but we're also very international and open to working with a diverse number of global groups.

Pam and Andye (right) next to their rock star limo
Q: Who are some of the musical groups that African Asian Exchange supports—the fan-generated clubs?

A: The music and dance fan-generated groups include Tears for Fears Superfans for the most part. That has been one of the most successful activities that go on everyday. Other fan groups are more Raqs-focused and are pretty much run by the actual artist. The activities we do consist of meet-ups before concerts, making sure everyone knows of good hotel deals and top quality yet inexpensive travel options. We check in on each other and try to relay band information to those who do not have the time sit online or sleep with their mobile device for social media updates. So far, the bands have been very receptive to our activity, ideas and presence so we'll just keep going as long as we can behave.

We're also big fans of the Villains band which has Filipino-American superstar Michael Magno. 

The Villains
Q: What about some of the over 40 businesses that are involved?

A: The businesses that are involved with us are everything from retail shops to tax preparers. We cover everything. Oftentimes, members want to work with someone who speaks their language so we connect them with each other. Success stories have been restaurants, dance conferences and dance studios that want cultured faces to represent their national holidays and gala shows. We have a long database of musicians, teachers, photographers, video editors, show producers and bankers etc who can help get the event off the ground.

My goal is to keep cultures connected and to go the extra mile to make sure it happens. There should always be international exchanges on a non-colonial level. A group should be able to co-exist freely in multi-cultured societies without stripping themselves of everything that identifies them with the culture of their origin or choice.

Thank you, Andye. What a decolonized delight you are!

Hey Hip Hapa Homeez, here’s a postcard I received from my cousin in Tokyo. It depicts the dragon carrying all the other
zodiac animals on his back. Since January 23 is the Year of the Water Dragon, I bid you a Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Until next month, I am and will always be

Your Hip Hapa,