15 nations represented at Culture Fest

Recipe for fufu, a Congolese food staple: Boil some water and add corn meal. Then, add manioc flour (you’ll have to buy it in Denver or Salt Lake City, or Kinshasa, for that matter) and stir it with a big stick. It will be very thick. Finally, scoop it into a bowl and take it to Culture Fest at the Mesa County Libraries Literacy Center.

It will earn this response: Um.

Um, what is that? It looks ... beige.

Becky and Patrick Weolongo Booto didn’t have a lot of takers on the fufu Saturday, but they did get a lot of questions — about the food, about the paper money and the ebony sculptures and intricate raffia mats. And about life in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), of which Patrick is native and where he met Becky when she was a missionary.

Saturday, they displayed Congolese arts and talked about the country they love, one of about 15 countries represented at the third-annual Culture Fest.

“At the Literacy Center we have students from 38 different countries,” said Karen Kllanxhja, head of literacy services at the library. “I think people are unaware of how many countries are represented here in the Grand Valley.”

Culture Fest was conceived as a way to share these different cultures and let people participate in them through food, arts and hands-on information, Kllanxhja said. This year, with a $2,000 grant from the Grand Junction Commission on Arts and Culture, the festival was expanded to accommodate a crowd that Kllanxhja expected to exceed last year’s turnout of 1,500 people.

As in the first two years, literacy center students set up tables representing their native countries and, at their own expense, brought dishes representative of their country’s cuisine.

In addition to the fufu, there was a Thai noodle dish, Mexican salad and a Chinese beef and rice dish, as well as dishes from Russia, Colombia and other countries.

There were Russian matryoshka (stacking dolls), Laotian silver bowls, Ugandan drums, Mexican tapestries, Colombian bead work and Chinese calligraphy. In the teen center, participants got henna tattoos and, in the children’s center, there were stories from around the world.

“This is a cheap around-the-world vacation,” said Sharon Wilson of Grand Junction. “It’s so colorful. Everything’s so interesting. And the food!”

African drummers, the Ballet Folklorico and Aman the yo-yo man performed, and Blanca Saenz gave a demonstration Zumba class.

“This is the very best day of the year for us,” Kllanxhja said. “It brings the whole world to Grand Junction.”


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