If you ask students what three Hope College traditions are around campus, most would probably answer the Pull and Nykerk but blank on the third. This third tradition is IMAGES, a beautiful production of multicultural celebration held at the Knickerbocker Theatre downtown. IMAGES takes place every November and is put on by the Fried Center for Global Engagement with two acts of multiple student-created performances. Let’s take a deep dive into what IMAGES is and what it means to both the people who experience it and also the people who bring it to life.
From singing and dancing to fashion shows and plays, there are many different types of performances in IMAGES. Jairus Meer (‘24), one of the participants, describes his act saying, “it’s basically a bamboo dance which originated from the Philippines and it was inspired by a bird called tikling. Legend has it, there was a bird that really stole a lot of rice crops, and so rice paddy farmers from the Philippines would use bamboo to dance around these rice fields barefoot so they could avoid the pickling bird from getting their rice grains.” In the IMAGES performance of the tinikling, the Philippines’ national dance, two performers moved two pieces of bamboo on the ground back and forth while Jarius and his partner, Chloe Roberts (’24) danced in and out of them. Elizabeth Nguncersung (‘23), an audience member commented on this performance, “Actually, we also have that in my culture…That was interesting to me that I just said, ‘Oh, they do have this too. I didn’t know that.’ You know, I only thought it was only in my culture that we have a bamboo dance. But I learned that all Filipinos also have a bamboo dance. So it was quite interesting to learn about that.”
IMAGES does a great job of providing a space for everyone to learn about different cultures. Ali Koehl (‘23) states, “I think IMAGES is my favorite tradition just because you get to see all the different types of cultures.” Nguncersung echoed this statement saying, “they are all different cultures that we have actually never experienced before but somehow we relate to it in a way…That feels different when you are in it rather than just actually hearing about it. I think that’s when it’s a very valuable experience.” The impact of IMAGES is huge, especially for the international community. Nguncersung mentions, “for international people or students, it was able to bring back memories about their hometown so they can reflect back on it and then it is just like a memory and a connection back to home […] Personally, for me, it was a learning process for me that I get to learn more about other people’s culture.”
This event doesn’t only impact students. Like other Hope College traditions, it is a community event. Koehl talks about this saying, “the Knickerbocker is full like the community is also a part of it. And not to say that Nykerk [isn’t], all of them are community events, but, IMAGES are just as important because they also get that turnout. There’s a line all the way down Eighth Street just to get in just to get a spot.”
With the many positive responses from the community and students, one has to wonder just what the impact of the event is. Meer says, “It’s something meaningful that the college is known for in terms of its diversity background that is available to other people on this campus other than a very predominantly white community. I think that IMAGES inspires people to be more culturally diagnostic and holistic in terms of watching what they are surrounded with and thinking critically about how they can be more observant of the other things around them.” As Hope College aims to be more inclusive and culturally aware, it is events and traditions like this that get people to positively engage with cultures right here on campus. There’s no better way to see culture in action than at IMAGES. Koehl continues saying, “I just think that IMAGES is an invitation to be open to learning about other people and it’s an invitation for people to expose themselves for the first time or continue to support each other and learn about different cultures and I mean, people who are not of those cultures will also be involved with the dancing. You don’t have to be Chinese to do a Chinese dance.” Anyone can be a part of IMAGES, you don’t have to be a certain ethnicity to join. That is why it is a multicultural celebration: it celebrates everyone and their cultures. Whether you sing a song, put on a fashion show with different traditional clothing, or bring the choreography of Kpop to the stage, there is room for everyone to engage with the beauty that comes from sharing where you come from.