Art, Asian food come to Port Washington

At the annual Asian American Festival in Port Washington on Saturday, find Japanese tea ceremony, taekwondo demonstrations, calligraphy classes and food from all over Asia.

Returning to North Hempstead Beach Park for the first time since the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, the festival attracts hundreds of people to visit dozens of tents and tables selling merchandise and showcase Asian culture through art, food and exhibits. There, attendees can watch Japanese tea ceremonies, model kimonos, practice origami, beat gongs and watch cultural performances.

The taste and scenery of Afghanistan, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines and other countries were fully displayed at the ceremony. The festival was cut short due to the rain and wind that entered the area Saturday afternoon.

Buddhist monk Kenji Nakagaki practiced calligraphy at the festival and gave attendees a chance to try it out for themselves. Nakagaki, 61, is Bellerose’s father, who taught him Japanese calligraphy. He explained that calligraphy, which requires training to learn skills, is not just an art form or handwriting.

“Mind and body are one in calligraphy. It’s not handwriting. It’s body writing,” Nakagaki said. “Your ideas appear in calligraphy.”

He highlighted three styles of Japanese calligraphy by writing the same character in different ways: kaishu, the most common “block style,” which is slow and thoughtful; gyosho, known as “runner style,” which flows faster; and There’s sosho, a quick cursive script known as “cao hand”. The same character will look different depending on the style used by the calligrapher. Gyosho is Nakagaki’s favorite because it “has a warmth,” he said.

Ranjan Panchal, 52, from Huntington, and Rehana Sidiqee, 57, from Hicksville, decorated attendees’ hands with henna at their booth. Panchal says she’s excited to share henna, a popular South Asian body art, with those unfamiliar with it. Henna is a plant-based dye commonly used to celebrate weddings and other special or joyous occasions.

“Henna is a symbol of happiness,” Panchal says. “We do it for all the happy moments.”

North Hempstead supervisor Jennifer DeSena called the festival’s return a “victory” and praised the rich offerings on offer at the festivities, highlighting the town’s diversity.

“The town of North Hempstead is fortunate to have such a vibrant and engaged Asian American and Pacific American community,” said council member Marianne Dalymont.

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