News / USA

Smithsonian Folklife Festival Expected to Draw a Million Visitors

Master weaver Nkerisapa Lewano, a participant in the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, is a member of the Ngurunit Basket Weavers Group in northern Kenya, a program sponsored by the Peace Corps.
Master weaver Nkerisapa Lewano, a participant in the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, is a member of the Ngurunit Basket Weavers Group in northern Kenya, a program sponsored by the Peace Corps.

Colombian coffee growers mingle with Peace Corps volunteers and some of the nation’s finest rhythm and blues musicians at this year’s Smithonian Folklife Festival, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

This year’s event spotlights Colombia’s rich bio-cultural diversity, the 50th anniversary of  the Peace Corps and the powerful influence of rhythm and blues music in American popular culture.

Hundreds of participants come to the nation’s capital for the 10-day event, which generally draws about a million visitors, according to Smithsonian spokesperson Becky Haberacker.

“The festival is a way to showcase cultural traditions from around the world,” she says. "And it’s a way to allow people to share their culture and their experience.”

This is the 45th folklife festival to be held on the National Mall, a wide expanse of open space between the U.S. Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial which is lined with museums. White tents set up on the mall house an eclectic assortment of programs and exhibits, including craft and cooking demonstrations as well as concerts.

"My favorite part is seeing things from other countries and listening to music," says Jim Yuengert, who works nearby. "It's a great opportunity to showcase things going on worldwide and within the U.S. and to open people's minds."

The Peace Corps program includes dance demonstrations from Ukraine, Botswana and the Philippines along with food samples from Morocco, Peru and Ghana. One of the most popular events, which occurred early in the festival, was a rhythm and blues performance by the musical group Soul Train. In the Colombia section, visitors can witness a ceremonial Amazonian dance or sample sweet corn arepas.

"It's very nice to show the kids and everybody how people in Colombia live," says Henry Rodriquez. A native of Bogota who now lives in Virginia, he brought his 19-year-old daughter to the festival. "It's very important for the new generation to see their background, to see their roots."

This first-hand cultural exchange is at the heart of the folklife festival experience.

“Instead of visiting an exhibit someone else has done, this is done in the first person,” says Haberacker. “Visitors are hearing directly from the tradition bearers; the people who make the crafts, who cook the food or sing the songs.”

Although the event draws visitors from around the world, most who attend come from around the United States.

Phil Jones made the trip from North Carolina. Having lived abroad for over a decade, it's a way for him to reconnect with other cultures again.

"Until you speak someone's language, eat with them, pray with them, you understand nothing about the rest of the world and your own culture," says Jones. "Americans fear other cultures because they don't know anything about them. They are more alike than different and when you see them, you're less likely to be mistrustful or wary of other cultures."

This spirit of mutual cultural understanding is exactly what Smithsonian organizers hope people gain from the experience, especially since many who attend won't have a chance to visit the foreign countries they learn about at the festival.

“We hope people walk away with a better appreciation of cultures from around the world and at the same time share a bit of America or wherever they’re from with the participants,” says Haberacker. “So it’s a bit of a cultural exchange we hope people come away with.”

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More