The Bangladeshi Student Association of UNM observed International Mother Language Day, but this time added dancing and fashion to better capture the essence of their culture.
The holiday celebrates Bengali, Bangladesh’s official language, said Shaikh Ahmad, BSAUNM’s program director of publication.
Bangladesh is the only country in the world to have fought to keep its mother language. In effect, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated it an international holiday in 1999. BSAUNM has hosted an event to commemorate the day for the last six years, but only recently opened it to the public, Ahmad said.
In 1952, Bangladeshi college students revolted against the Pakistani government when they tried to change the official language, he said. Students from several colleges protested the change, ultimately resulting in Bengali as the official language of Bangladesh.
Bengali evolved from Sanskrit, which has been spoken since A.D. 1000.
In honor of the special day, the BSAUNM built a replica of the Shaheed Minar monument that is in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The structure commemorates the 12 college students who died to keep Bengali the official language in East Pakistan, Ahmad said.
This division eventually led to their independence from Pakistan in 1971, becoming their own country, Bangladesh.
According to UNESCO’s website, it designated the holiday in effort to encourage linguistic and cultural diversity throughout the world.
To add to their three-year-strong program, the BSAUNM incorporated classic Bangladeshi dance to the program, as well as asked many members of the community to wear formal Bangladeshi attire.
The BSAUNM invited people from outside of the Bangladeshi program, which included many host families and faculty members, Ahmad said.
“UNM is a really diverse university in the state — and even in the country,” he said. “What we try to do here is share our culture with the international community.”
Hasan Faisal, president of the BSAUNM, said the association was thrilled to have the dance segment of the program as well as the diversity in clothing.
Most of the performers wore traditional Bangladeshi clothing in effort to further promote cultural integration. The clothing represents farmers, middle class and other clothing for dance.
The dance is a mix of Bangladeshi culture, he said. The event stresses the importance of keeping the mother language, and it is imperative that people know about it. Languages are being lost too often.
According to UNESCO’s webpage, “more than 50 percent of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world are likely to die out within a few generations, and 96 percent of these languages are spoken by a mere four percent of the world’s population.”
Tanzila Upama, member of the BSAUNM, performed a classical Bangladeshi dance for the show.
Now in her 20s, Upama, international graduate student in accounting, said she has been practicing since she was four years old and was honored to represent her culture for the celebration.
“It is very exciting... it’s part of our culture,” Upama said. “In my country we take training in this special type of dancing. It is very hard and it requires you to move frequently.”
Moriah Carty is the assistant culture editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MoriahCarty.