The Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2012

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Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2012 themes

The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, held on the National Mall is much anticipated every summer. But this year there was going to be a difference in the festival. I've written in these blog pages about the cultural ambassadors I've encountered in recent years from Bhutan, Wales, Mexico, and Colombia. But this year, the festival would bring no visitors from abroad. Instead, it would examine three very different themes of contemporary American life. Citified brought together African-American artists, musicians, and storytelelrs from the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC. Campus and Community celebrated the 150th anniversary of legislation providing for funding of public universities in the states via land grants.

Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula hālau from Hawaii Community College and the University of Hawaii Hilo. .
Creativity and Crisis marked the 25th aniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt as members of the arts community remembered the impact of HIV/AIDS.

I was able to visit the festival grounds twice. It was hot on the National Mall, though. Nearly every day of the ten day festival has seen temperatures in excess of 100F (38C), many of them record-setting. The heat brought on an unusual derecho storm to the Washington region at the end of June, with hurricane-force winds knocking out electricity to over a million customers and blowing down festival tents and displays. The show went on, though, and the Folklife Festival was soon back in operation.

I was initally skeptical about this year's selection of themes.

Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula hālau from Hawaii Community College and the University of Hawaii Hilo.
I've really enjoyed the international artists and musicians of past festivals. What would the themes this year bring? Not to worry. It was a great experience, as always!

I arrived each time about noon, with the idea I would find lunch at the food tents. I noted that a performance by the Unukupukupu hula dancers was in progress. The dancers are a traditional troupe, or hula hulau, from Hawaii Community College and the University of Hawaii Hilo. (They were part of Campus and Community.) There were both men and women dancers and their hula performace was quite different from the stereotypical grass-skirt dance one that the word hula conjurs up! (Yes, the festival is good at breaking down stereotypes.)

Lunchtime. I selected a Pulled Pork Barbecue sandwich with potato salad and collard greens from the Citified food concession.

Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula hālau from Hawaii Community College and the University of Hawaii Hilo.
To try to escape the heat, I sat in the Citified theme area. Two musicians from Southeast Washington, DC, AB the Pro and Christylez Bacon, were performng here. AB the Pro, working from a laptop as is music source, described his influences ranging from African drums to R&B. Christylez Bacon them performed a hip-hop call/response song requiring audience participation in the response. Urban muralists were at work n the Citified display area and I inspected some of their work. These were artists whose medium was a can of spray pant and canvas any avialable flat surface.

Back at the Morrill performace tent, the Mariachi Aztlán ensemble from the University of Texas Pan American were on stage. I enjoy mariachi music, so I listened for a while.

On my second visit this year, I arrived around 1:00 p.

Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula hālau from Hawaii Community College and the University of Hawaii Hilo.
m. Lunch was Dolma (cabbage roll with ground beef, rice and onion) with a tossed salad from the Azerbaijani food tent. A tasty Dyushes (pear lemonade) was a welcome accompaniement in the heat of the afternoon. (There were no Azerbaijani cultural displays at this festival, though there were evenng musical performaces at the Smithsonian.)  The Citified area folk bid me try their Mambo Sauce on the cabbage rolls. A truly cross-cultural meal! The sound of steel drums beckoned me back over to the Morrill performace tent.  The West Virginia University Steel Drum Band was performing Caribbean and Country music on their steel pans. Yes, that is correct, wild, wonderful West Virginia has a sizeable steel band!

I had not yet visited the Creativity and Crisis area and so went there next.

Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula hālau from Hawaii Community College and the University of Hawaii Hilo.
The NAMES Performers were performing at the Red Hot performance tent. the printed schedule showed them doing a Broadway tribute at this time, But, it had changed and instead they were engaged in a musical theatre style piece describing the events that brought about the AIDS Quilt. Other displays described the Quilt itself and the ongoing work in maintaining it and commemorating those who have died of HIV/AIDS. Then there was the AIDS quilt itself on display, spread out on the Mall. Only a fraction of the 93,000 existing quilt panels had been brought to Washington, but it seemed to go on forever on that afternoon, a vanishing point leading to the Capitol.  

Zagnut66 says:
Hi Andy. I almost went to the festival over the weekend, but it was just too hot for me, especially after having lost power for several days. I'm glad you had a good time.
Posted on: Jul 09, 2012
Africancrab says:
I did like the commemoration of AIDs/HIV victims too. We did a lot of sampling of the foods, but it was rather too hot and the rain was coming on so we left earlier than we expected.
Posted on: Jul 09, 2012
Africancrab says:
Hey Andy, you took a lot more photos than we did. We did see the Unukupukupu dancers and my daughter wanted to learn how :) I was taken mostly by the art, the various artists and pieces I could have bought, had not my husband stoped.
Posted on: Jul 09, 2012
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Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2012…
Smithsonian Folklife Festival 201…
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula h…
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula …
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula h…
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula …
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula h…
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula …
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula h…
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula …
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula h…
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula …
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula h…
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula …
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula h…
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula …
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula h…
Unukupukupu hula dancers. A hula …
Creativity and Crisis banner
Creativity and Crisis banner
The NAMES Performers: Imagining Th…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining T…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining Th…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining T…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining Th…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining T…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining Th…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining T…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining Th…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining T…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining Th…
The NAMES Performers: Imagining T…
Creativity and Crisis: Broadway ba…
Creativity and Crisis: Broadway b…
The AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed …
The AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed…
The AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed …
The AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed…
The AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed …
The AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed…
Story of the AIDS Memorial Quilt
Story of the AIDS Memorial Quilt
Quilt workshop
Quilt workshop
Language of the Quilt
Language of the Quilt
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Citified interpretive marker. Smit…
Citified interpretive marker. Smi…
Melani N. Douglass discusses stain…
Melani N. Douglass discusses stai…
Melani N. Douglass discusses stain…
Melani N. Douglass discusses stai…
Watering down a hot National Mall
Watering down a hot National Mall
Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2012
Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2012
Urban mural at Citified. Smithsoni…
Urban mural at Citified. Smithson…
Azerbaijani food concession. Smith…
Azerbaijani food concession. Smit…
Dolma (cabbage roll with ground be…
Dolma (cabbage roll with ground b…
West Virginia University Steel Dru…
West Virginia University Steel Dr…
West Virginia University Steel Dru…
West Virginia University Steel Dr…
West Virginia University Steel Dru…
West Virginia University Steel Dr…
Scratcher player with the West Vir…
Scratcher player with the West Vi…
West Virginia University Steel Dru…
West Virginia University Steel Dr…
University of Texas Pan American (…
University of Texas Pan American …
University of Texas Pan American (…
University of Texas Pan American …
University of Texas Pan American (…
University of Texas Pan American …
University of Texas Pan American (…
University of Texas Pan American …
Urban muralist at work
Urban muralist at work
Urban mural detail. Smithsonian Fo…
Urban mural detail. Smithsonian F…
Urban mural detail: bus.Smithsonia…
Urban mural detail: bus.Smithsoni…
Urban mural at Citified. Smithsoni…
Urban mural at Citified. Smithson…
AB the Pro and Christylez Bacon. A…
AB the Pro and Christylez Bacon. …
Christylez Bacon performs a call/r…
Christylez Bacon performs a call/…
East of the River Boys & Girls Ste…
East of the River Boys & Girls St…
Urban muralist at work. Smithsonia…
Urban muralist at work. Smithsoni…
AB the Pro and Christylez Bacon. C…
AB the Pro and Christylez Bacon. …
Christylez Bacon performs a call/r…
Christylez Bacon performs a call/…
Community Barbeque food concession…
Community Barbeque food concessio…
Pulled pork barbecue sandwich with…
Pulled pork barbecue sandwich wit…
University of Hawaii performance l…
University of Hawaii performance …
Hawaiian music performers from the…
Hawaiian music performers from th…
Sustainable energy: University of …
Sustainable energy: University of…
Inside the University of Tennessee…
Inside the University of Tennesse…
University of Tennessee solar house
University of Tennessee solar house
Indiana University display
Indiana University display
Indiana University string instrume…
Indiana University string instrum…
String instrument maker from India…
String instrument maker from Indi…
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photo by: b93sp