Wednesday, September 24, 2014

[Indian Culture Workshop 2013-2014] Multimedia Presentations for Secondary School Students and Teachers

Professor Tam and the cultural trainers signing Namaste at Yuen Long Merchants Association Secondary School.

In March 2014, participants of the Indian Culture Workshop, under the supervision of Prof Siumi Maria Tam, took up the role of cultural trainers and gave multimedia presentations to 523 students and teachers from four local secondary schools.

The presentations covered three topics chosen by the trainers themselves. Each topic lasted 20-30 minutes. During the presentations, students watched powerpoint slideshows and video clips, enjoyed mass games and quizzes, as well as appreciated cultural artifacts such as costumes and food items from India. Before the end of the presentations, the students seized the chance to ask in-depth questions about the topics in the Q & A sessions. Let’s have a look now at what our Indian Culture Trainers included in the presentations, and how they reflected on this special experience!


Topic 1: Hinduism
Yat Heng CHAN, MA in Anthropology, CUHK

For this presentation on Hinduism, the dominant religion in India, the key message was the importance of remaining open-minded and showing respect to other cultures, especially on the subject of religion.

I used a story-telling approach in my presentation so that the audience, who were unfamiliar with Hinduism, could grasp the basic beliefs of the religion easily. The presentation focused on the 10 avatars (or incarnations) of Vishnu, which represent 10 era in the Hindu cosmology, from the beginning of time to the end.

In the story of the first incarnation, Matsya the fish tells how Manu was instructed to build a big boat to save one of every species from a flood. The audience was able to draw linkages between this Hindu myth and the Christian myth of Noah’s ark, thus showing their ability to identify similarities between different belief systems.

In the story of the third incarnation, Varaha the boar tells of the formation of heaven and hell, while the story of the sixth incarnation Parasurama explains the development of human civilization. The story of the ninth incarnation Buddha challenges our understanding of Buddhism. Students were surprised to learn that Buddha, according to Hinduism, is an incarnation of Vishnu. He has come to Earth to remind people about the consequences of their own deeds, and to teach them to free themselves from the reincarnation cycle, before Shiva the god of destruction comes.

It was heartening to see secondary students taking an active part in the presentation, and enjoying the quizzes in particular. They were all eager to learn new information, with some jotting notes spontaneously, and were receptive to challenges of stereotypical concepts regarding minorities in Hong Kong.


Our cultural trainers interacting with the students.
Students having a taste of wearing Indian costumes.


Topic 2: Food and Culture
Wing Tung Connie LEE, BA student, Anthropology, CUHK
Yi Chen RAO, MPhil student, Anthropology, CUHK
Qi Ran REN, MA in Anthropology, CUHK

This exciting presentation on Indian food culture energized the audience to the max. The presentation started with an introduction on the diversity of food cultures in India. It showed that Indian food is not one single national cuisine, but rather includes a large variety of regional dishes, which have developed in different environmental and cultural settings.

A video clip took the audience to places in Hong Kong where they could try Indian cuisine, with a highlight on Chungking Mansions. It showed that ethnic minority cultures are very much part of our daily lives. All we need to do is to open our eyes and allow ourselves to learn about others’ cultures.

The students were eager to take part in the quiz after the presentation, making use of their new-found knowledge to answer the questions for prizes. The audience was asked to compare the regional differences in Chinese cuisines with the regional differences in Indian cuisines. By doing so, the audience was encouraged to link the experiences of their own culture to another culture with which they were unfamiliar. This exercise helped students to think critically about what was taken-for-granted in their everyday life, and to develop new perspectives on our own society. Multiculturalism as a way of life allows us to be more open-minded and help to make Hong Kong a truly cosmopolitan society.


Our cultural trainer Chan Yat Heng presenting his project on Hinduism at HKTA Tang Hin Memorial Secondary School.

Students listening attentively to a presentation on Indian food culture. 

Professor Maria Tam (4th left) and the teacher in charge (6th left), with cultural trainers and students. 


Topic 3: Gender and Family
Wing Yee Gloria CHUANG, BA student, Anthropology, CUHK
Hei Tung Nicola CHUI, BA student, Anthropology, CUHK
Tsz Kwan Cutter LAI, BA in Philosophy, Lingnan University

This presentation started with two advertisements of a cookie product; one was aired in Hong Kong and the other in India. They have a similar story line: a little girl invites her father to play house and shares some cookies with him.

Students were amused by the obvious cultural differences in gender roles, though the commercials share the same plot and slogan. In the Hong Kong version, the interaction between father and daughter focuses on play and fun, while the Indian version emphasizes the daughter’s domestic duty—females should serve food to the males in the family. The comparison showed the gender relations in different societies can be very different both practically and ideologically.

According to surveys conducted in India, both women and men possess very stereotypical views on sexual division of labor. Both sexes think that females should develop their career either in the household or in “feminine” professions, such as nurse or teacher. This means that women’s wage work is seen to be an extension of their domestic duties, as the majority in India considers the male is the breadwinner and belongs to the public sphere, while the female is the carer and belongs to the private sphere.

Students agreed that although Hong Kong is a more gender-equal society, male-preference is still prevalent in our social norms. They gave an example that Hong Kong women are mostly employed in the fields of education, service, and caring professions. But they also acknowledged that with female empowerment, young women are able to enter fields that used to be dominated by men, such as engineering.

This topic is important because gender is a core part of a person’s social identity. Having a sensibility for gender equality allows a young person to develop self-esteem and see her/himself in a healthy and positive light, and simultaneously helps to enhance a sense of social responsibility and justice. Examples from another culture allow us to examine gender relations from a distance, and thus serve as a mirror into which we can see and reflect on ourselves more rationally.


Professor Tam introducing the Indian Culture Workshop at New Asia Middle School.

Students taking part in the mass quiz game. 

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