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Buffalo Without Borders to celebrate cultures new and old - INTERVIEW

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Name another event in Buffalo where you can stomp your feet to the rhythm of Bhangra dancers, nosh on mango-banana sushi and speculate on your future with the red dye of a Polish fortuneteller.

I don’t think you can. Buffalo Without Borders, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Asbury Hall, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, marks the annual fundraiser for the International Institute of Buffalo, the city’s lone secular resettlement agency.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the IIB’s office at 864 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, or online here.

As in years past, Buffalo Without Borders will highlight the cultural traditions of recent immigrants—particularly Burmese, Ethiopian and Eritrean—but will also pay tribute to the Old World immigrants who’ve played a more enduring role in Buffalo’s identity.

Through a phone chat with IIB director of development and communications Erin Kelly—who created the useful “Map for Adventurous Eaters” in December 2012 before starting work at the institute in January—we learned specifics about this year’s glimpse into Buffalo’s heritage and future:

Food: The Buffalo News’ Andrew Galarneau dug deep into the various food offerings at Buffalo Without Borders, so I’ll leave much of the expertise to him.

Three different strands of Burmese culture will be represented at the event—we didn’t realize it was so segmented—and two of them can be appreciated through food: Sun Restaurant and owner Kevin Lin (pictured left) will dole out own no koksware (a coconut noodle soup) and black rice salad (pictured at the bottom), while Rakhapura Mutee and Sushi of the West Side Bazaar will offer Arakanese—a state within Burma—cuisine with Rakhapura egg rolls and the aforementioned mango-banana sushi.

During our conversation, Kelly brought up a friend living in New York City who, when hearing about Buffalo Without Borders, remarked, “We don’t have any Burmese in Brooklyn.” Buffalo is a special place.

Among the 10 vendors, however, is the relatively new gelato and sorbetto cart, the Gelato Gypsy, and Nickel Creek Cafe, which will bring Italian wedding cookies.

Scott Christopher—formerly of now-closed Encompass Coffee Bar and Cafe on Hertel—will concoct South African ginger beer and serve Indian chai tea to the attendees, while Gatur’s Ethiopian Cuisine, Taj Grill, the Caribbean Experience, Niagara Cafe, Pure Peru and others will also have tables.

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Dance and Music: After successfully—and spontaneously—closing out last year’s Buffalo Without Borders, a group of Iraqi dancers (see header photo) will engage in a Dabke—an Arabic folk dance—where a long line of men links arms and dances jovially.

Habibi of the Nile belly dancers, Jama Jama Peace and Love African Drumming and the University at Buffalo’s Bhangra dancers round out a remarkably diverse dance lineup. (If you’re unfamiliar, Bhangra is an energetic dance originating in the northwestern state in India, Punjab).

The music tends to go hand-in-hand with dance, but audio-visual mixologist Projex will perform again after a stirring performance at this past summer’s Yelp Without Borders.

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Souk and the Den of Prophecy: Sure, it’s fine if the title makes you think of a J.K. Rowling masterpiece, but Babeville—the downstairs portion of Asbury Hall—will transform into a Souk (marketplace) and a Den of Prophecy through Kelly’s initiative.

Some of the Souk highlights include a henna tattoo artist returning from last year’s event, the work of Louise Sano from Global Villages and So Chic, a Bhutanese sewing collective that’s instructed by a Canisius College professor.

The story behind one of the participants in the Den of Prophecy is amusing: when chatting with the Polish Heritage Dancers of Western New York about pierogi and advertising, Kelly learned about the tradition of Polish fortunetelling where red wax is poured through a key into a bucket of water, and fortunes are told from the shape of the red blob in the bucket.

If you want a little more insight into Polish fortunetelling and its connection to St. Andrew’s Day on Nov. 30, head here.

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Auctions: There are a bunch of silent auction items, but one piqued our interest. You can bid on a ride-along with Lloyd Taco Truck—tough to beat riding around the city in a truck that smells like Rocket Sauce—as well as a Lloyd-catered party with 20 of your friends.

(Photos from last year’s event are courtesy of Robin David Brown—see his full gallery here. Photo of the black rice salad is courtesy of Kat Przybyla’s coverage from last year’s event—you can see that here). 

TAGGED: asbury hall, buffalo without borders, burmese food, cultures, downtown, erin kelly, international institute of buffalo

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