The Oakland Asian Cultural Center welcomed the Year of the Snake at its annual Lunar New Year event in downtown Oakland on Saturday.
The 2013 festival showcased dance and musical performances from groups throughout the Bay Area’s Asian community, including the Rising Dragon Culture Center Lion Dance Troupe, who opened the show with dragons prancing around. Students of Seibi Lee, the center’s artist-in-residence preformed Kathak, a classical dance from India, while Winnie Wong and Diana Rowan played the harp and the piano.
Throughout the day, visitors could sign up for classes offered by the English Center, a nonprofit organization that assists with job placement, purchase artwork donated by local artists and sample candy sold by Jade Chocolate. Kids played at the arts and crafts table, and there were plenty of paper snakes to represent the Lunar New Year to go around. People walked around wearing leis, strings of flowers worn on special occasions in Hawaii, although these were made from paper orchids for the Lunar New Year.
Cang Ye—age 91 and known to family and friends as “Professor Yip,”—spent the entire day writing messages for visitors of luck, happiness and prosperity using Chinese calligraphy, including special messages for residents requested by Major Jean Quan. As he wrote messages with a special quill, he worked alongside David Lau, owner of International Inc., which provides art services to the cultural center.
On display in the center of the room was artist Nancy Hom’s Mandala project, which was created with family heirlooms and cards decorated by Oakland residents. The Mandala is used to represent a model for the structure of life. The one created by Hom represents the city of Oakland and its richness as a community that encompasses many people and cultures. It included ceramic pieces donated by friends and members of the community. Cards created by visitors who arrived at the festival helped to make the circle grow as each card was added to the project
The final portion of the program offered free lessons to everyone on a variety of subjects. Sheldon Callahan taught a Shaolin Gong Fu martial arts lesson, while Seibi Lee offered Indian dance. At a hula session down the hall, girls formed a line to practice with instructor Halau Makana. Korean drumming was a hit for teacher and musician Adria Otte, who instructed a full room of parents and children.
Art, dance and martial arts, history and language classes are offered at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center each week. For more information, please go to oacc.cc.