Bangladeshis celebrate their culture at Jamaica arts center

Olympia (8) and Maple Flag (originally from Hong Kong) at Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning
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The Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning was packed Saturday as people from all different backgrounds came out to celebrate the third installation of the Delightful Festival series, Bangladeshi Delights.

Attendees got a taste of Bengali food, which included Chicken Biriyani, Goat Curry, Beef Curry and Seekh Kebab that was provided by Ghoroa Restaurant, located at 168th Street on Hillside Avenue.

Abida Sultana, a Bengali-American living in Jamaica since 2002, was happy to see the cultural exchange between Bengalis and non-Bengalis at the event.

“I think they are going to like the food and the music,” Sultana said. “They are going to learn about a different taste and music style.”

Sultana learned about the festival from her sewing teacher, Supreme Master, who teaches people how to make traditional garments from their own countries at Queens Central Library and how to create a business selling those clothes.

“We are multicultu­ral,” said Master. “I have friends from every community, and we exchange cultural history.”

Master also said events like these made him want to trace his African ancestry to learn more about his roots.

“I wish I knew where I was from,” Master said, “but I think I’m Zulu.”

Kynniah Rodriguez, 13, who is from the Bronx, learned about the event, together with friends Zoe Knibb and Khaylani Garcia, 8, from seeing fliers within the JCAL building while practicing modeling techniques for the Queens-based modeling agency, Strike-A-Pose in Studio 8.

“The food is delicious and I love it,” Rodriguez said, while eating the Goat Curry and Chicken Biriyani rice.

The three friends and their Strike-A-Pose comrades have already attended the Jamaican Delights and Trinidadian Delights installations and plan to attend the next five cultural events, presented by Greg Mays, the founder of “A Better Jamaica,” a non-profit cultural organization.

“We just came down one Saturday and saw that they were having an event, and we’ve been going ever since,” Rodriguez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to learn about different cultures and music, because I think it is important to have that knowledge growing up,” said Rodriguez. “I think it’s a beautiful thing.”

In addition to the cuisine, guests got a chance to meet and listen to the Bengali-American music star Wahid Azad, alongside members of his band: Jay Biswas, Khasbu Alam, and Mohammad Khirul Islam. Azad was excited to share his music with the diverse crowd.

“I’ve been here for so long and I’ve always wanted to represent my country,” Azad said. “Today, the music I’m performing is ‘We Never Forget Your Mother Country’s Language,’ ” said the singer, who has lived in the United States for almost 20 years.

Azad described his music as being a fusion between traditional Bengali folk music and American music. His rhythmic styling is inspired by the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, a performer who he is often likened to in his home country of Bangladesh.

Jamming out to the music while enjoying the food was Flushing resident Maple Flag, originally from Hong Kong, and her daughter, Olympia, who she relishes bringing to these types of events.

“I go around the city and go to all types of shows and they are so interesting,” said Maple. “We meet more people and this helps to broaden her mind.”

Later in the evening the attendees watched a screening of “The Clay Bird,” a drama about the tumultuous period before Bangladesh’s separation from Pakistan in the 1960s.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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