One sky over all: celebrating diversity


As a child, Shu Zhang avoided anything considered ‘cute.’

Now 22, she fills that blank in her childhood by actively dressing in Lolita fashion­—a Japanese style where adults dress with a childishness reminiscent of the 19th century.

Zhang shared her passion with others at the One Sky Festival at Renison, a celebration of different cultures and people co-existing under one sky. 

“I want to get more people to learn about how Lolita fashion is and how fun it is… and I would also like to make a correction that it is not cosplaying but it is a fashion style,” she said. 

On Sept. 21, the Renison community celebrated the 25th One Sky Festival with members of the UW and larger KW community at Renison University College. 

Karrie Cornies, Events and Conference coordinator, said this year is calls for “double celebration,” as Renison also reached its 60th anniversary. 

Cornies said the festival embodies the overarching philosophy of Renison: “One sky over all.” 

‘One sky over all’ means everyone is welcome, so that’s why it’s so important for Renison to not just do events for our own community but also do events that invite the Waterloo Regional community and outward community; they come in and they celebrate with us, they see these cultures and learn and grow from each other,” she said. 

The festival included booths from China, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, and the United Arab Emirates, each offering food and activities from their respective countries, as well as clothing that attendees can try on and take pictures in. 

Students, teachers, and government officials alike shared their cultures and experienced the cultures of others. 

Young-Lee Ha, a professor teaching Korean at Renison, helped organize the Korean booth. 

The booth offered bibimbap, a Korean dish of rice and vegetables mixed together in a bowl. 

Brochures and pamphlets for visiting Korea were laid on the table alongside children’s books, and volunteers gave attendees a chance to win Korean desserts by answering trivia questions about Korea. 

Ha said these events are important because they bring people together, who have otherwise remained separate. 

“I just hope that we can add more countries [so people], including myself, get to be exposed to more diverse cultures, and especially considering students who are coming to UW, being able to understand and appreciate each others’ culture is very important—because that is how we live together and we create a better society,” she said. 

Khalfan Almarzooqui, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering at UW, was representing the UAE. 

Almarzooqui and anothercolleague shared samosas, dates, tea, and coffee with attendees. More volunteers painted participants’  hands with henna designs.

In addition to food and activities, Almarzooqui also shared knowledge and history. They provided books with information about and ideas from the UAE. 

“This event will let people know about each other, it will build bridges between differnt cultures, it will bring the poeple to know each other in a better way and understand each other in a better way,” Almarzooqui said. 

Zhang echoed his sentiment. As she was not assigned to a specific activity, she spent time in many of the activities available. 

“I like to get in touch with the mixing of culture…I’m not specifically in a certain trial or a certain place, but I want to feel how people from other countries get involved and participate in another country’s event,” she said. “I want to have more festivals around the year instead of just once a year!”



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