"What is Culture?" Photo Contest 


This annual contest promotes cross-cultural awareness and international study.  The photos are on display in Memorial Library lobby until the end of fall semester. 

Congratulations to the top three finalists of the 2016 “What is Culture?” contest, 1st place Emma Wright, 2nd place Bertha Nibigira and 3rd place Erin Lehmberg!  

Contest 1st Place

1st place - “What’s your aim?” by Emma Wright 

I remember sitting with 5 girls on a patio outside of their home. It was a hot July day, and there were other kids all around us playing soccer and badminton. These children, most of them orphans, came to this home to be educated. I sat with these 5 girls and we took turns asking each other questions. “What do you do every day?” they asked me. I told them that my days were filled with classes and work. I told them that I usually started around 8. Eager to hear what these 10 year-olds’ days consisted of, I returned the question. “Oh, well, aca,” they said, calling me sister, “we usually rise around 5am. We begin our days with prayer. After that, we do our chores and we study. We have breakfast and then we go to school. Once we return from school, we do our homework, clean, and eat dinner. If we need to, we study some more.” Up until this point, I really thought that I was exhausted, but I promise as soon as I heard those words, I ceased feeling justified in my complaining. I wasn’t tired. I slept in until 8. I wasn’t tired. They proceeded to continue their questioning with, “what is your aim?” I asked them to repeat the question because I wasn’t sure what they meant. They said it again, and I realized they were asking what I wanted to do with my life. I stammered through some sort of explanation – I’m an Anthropology major (Oh, no..They don’t know what anthropology is…uhhh). I love people and cultures and languages (ummm)…I think I may want to write at some point? I’m not really sure, but something along those lines. The girls nodded their head. I asked them what their “aims” are. They replied with very specific answers – a doctor, a pediatrician, a brain surgeon. These are not answers equivalent to “I want to be a princess when I grow up!” These girls are determined. They are brilliant, and they want to succeed. Somewhere in the courtyard, an older girl called out to them in Tamil (the regional language), and they scampered off to play. This girl, Aslen, was the only one who stayed with me. She laughed, “Americans have very different aims.”


Contest Winner 2nd

2nd Place - “AKWAABA” by Bertha Nibigira 

Akwaaba is a word in one of the major languages of Ghana, Twi. The term literally means you are welcome. In the Ghanaian customs, Akwaaba symbolizes hospitality, acceptance, and collaboration. Culturally, Ghanaians extend Akwaaba to their guests whenever the guests are received informally and formally to demonstrates peace, acceptance, and friendliness. When you visit a Ghanaian home, the host tells you Akwaaba, proceeds to offer you a seat, and then serve you water. When this has been done, it means you have been welcomed and accepted into the home. While I was in Accra, Ghana, I learned about the significance of what is called Akwaaba photos. I went ahead and arranged to get Akwaaba photos of myself before I left the country. Above is an Akwaaba photograph of me. Nearly all Ghanaian females living in Ghana get Akwaaba photos of themselves taken at least once in their life time. The photographs are found in almost all Ghanaian homes. The photograph always features females dressed in Ghanaian traditional attires made from Kente fabric complimented with some beads necklaces, beads bracelets, and gold ring. Furthermore, the photos always feature the females holding a traditional pot that is supposed to contain palm wine or water and having on a bright and huge smile appearing ready to welcome guests and serve them water or palm wine with great joy. The Akwaaba expression is not only used by Ghanaian individuals, the local government also uses the term to welcome foreigners in the country. Therefore, Akwaaba is expressed to initiate relationships on both individual and governmental level. The Akwaaba photo demonstrates the Ghanaian proverbial hospitality extended to anybody and everybody.


Contest 3rd Place

3rd place - “Graffiti Grandma Offers Yerba Mate Tea” by Erin Lehmberg 

While wandering the streets of Mendoza, located in the western wine country of Argentina, I snapped this picture of a culturally rich piece of graffiti-art. Graffiti is central to Argentine culture. Nearly all walls and surfaces in Argentina’s cities are seen as viable canvases for graffiti artists. Graffiti is not seen as a destruction of property in Argentina like it is in the States, but rather, it is a demonstration of their freedom of expression. The images and messages are frequently related to contemporary issues and politics. I can recount various messages that spoke out against the agricultural company, Monsanto, as well as messages supporting the national social movement for women’s rights, called “Ni Una Menos.” In this case, the graffiti showcases an elderly woman extending a cup of yerba mate tea to her viewers. Yerba mate is a type of tea that is only consumed in Argentina, Uruguay, and parts of Bolivia. The tea is meant to be partaken in a social setting, reflecting the Argentine’s deeply rooted value for social interaction. The Argentine people are crazy about this tea—they drink it all hours of the day, much like America’s obsession with coffee. This graffiti captures a cultural staple in a vibrantly expressive nation.


See the rest of the submissions on  Google +  or  Facebook.