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Visitors to the 48th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival can learn about the diverse and rich cultures of China and Kenya. This year’s Festival will also feature a special concert to celebrate the legacy of the late Pete Seeger (1919-2014).
The Festival will be held Wednesday, June 25, through Sunday, June 29, and Wednesday, July 2, through Sunday, July 6, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events beginning at 6 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.
China: Tradition and the Art of Living
“China: Tradition and the Art of Living” will feature 120 participants from the world’s most populous country. Artists, dancers, craftspeople and cooks will share and celebrate the customs and traditions from every part of this diverse land.
Two themes—reunion and balance—highlight the importance of seasonal festival traditions. Recurring festivals and celebrations are reunions that help preserve traditional ways of life. Festival visitors can watch craftspeople make paper-cut designs, New Year’s prints, clay figurines, kites and sachets that are used during annual celebrations and see artists who specialize in embroidery, patchwork, batiks and porcelain.
Visitors to “China: Tradition and the Art of Living” will also experience the exuberance of public life in China when they visit the “People’s Park” area of the program. Participants will demonstrate and teach the flower drum lantern dance, tai chi and water calligraphy giving visitors a sense of the energy of Chinese public parks. Bicycle parking will be available on the Mall throughout the Festival.
Visitors will also see a “flower plaque,” a decorative bamboo structure that celebrates the culture of southern China. Commissioned by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the 112-foot-wide and 34-foot-high flower plaque is one of the largest structures in Festival history. Alongside the flower plaque visitors can visit the Moonrise Pavilion and see daily theater, song and dance performances. Nearby, visitors of all ages can fly a kite or visit the Family Style tent where they can try calligraphy, play a game, learn Chinese phrases or dance.
Kenya: Mambo Poa
The Smithsonian celebrates the diversity and traditions of Kenya and its people with the 2014 Folklife Festival program “Kenya: Mambo Poa.” The program will feature more than 80 participants, including athletes, wildlife experts, archeologists and artists highlighting the East African country’s rich cultural heritage.
The program will include demonstrations of traditional Kenyan arts such as beading, basket weaving, pottery, woodcarving and Swahili plasterwork. Visitors can try on colorful East African textiles at the khanga workshop or visit the Kenya House where members of the diaspora community will be sharing stories of the Kenyan experience in America. Another program highlight will be a dhow, a traditional Kenyan sailing vessel. The boat, which was hand-built in Lamu, Kenya, will be shipped to the Smithsonian and restored on site.
During the Festival, visitors can learn what it is like to live with the big five game—lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros—and how Kenyans are working to protect them. A Festival highlight will be a newly commissioned sculpture by internationally renowned artist Elkana Ong’esa that embodies the country’s commitment to animal conservation. Also important to Kenyans are efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. Visitors will be able to watch participants construct a small free-form modular house made out of recycled materials.
Visitors of all ages can play a Kenyan game, learn a song or dance and make a beaded bracelet or toy out of recycled materials. In the Flavors of Kenya tent, visitors can watch how cooks from several communities use traditional ingredients to create the dishes eaten in Kenyan homes today. The program will feature a simulated archeological dig where visitors can learn about Kenya’s contributions to research discoveries about early humans.
Visitors can also enjoy the sounds of Kenyan music at the program’s Ngoma Stage or in a more informal setting at the Watering Hole beer garden.
Sunday, June 29, is Festival Diaspora Day, which celebrates the diaspora communities, associated with each program. Performances, demonstrations and discussion sessions will highlight how cultural traditions are transformed when people and communities migrate.
Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert To Honor Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger’s history with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival was a long and rich one. He, along with Festival co-founder Ralph Rinzler, influenced the way people around the world understand the social power of music and the continued relevance of traditional culture in contemporary society. On Friday, June 27, at 6:30 p.m. musicians including Holly Near, Quetzal, Radmilla Cody and Tony Seeger will gather to celebrate Pete’s life and give voice to his resounding legacy.
Marketplace and Concessions
Merchandise produced by Festival artisans and a selection of related books and Smithsonian Folkways recordings will be available for purchase at the Festival Marketplace, located in front of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Meals, snacks and beverages representing the two programs will be sold at three concession stands.
Large-print versions of the daily schedule and food concession menus will be available at information kiosks and the Volunteer tent. Volunteers will be on call to assist wheelchair users. Performance stages, narrative stages, the Flavors of Kenya stage and the Five Spice Kitchen are equipped with induction loops. Service animals are welcome. American Sign Language interpreters will be on site to interpret selected performances and presentations. An additional interpreter is on site each day for visitors with requests beyond the scheduled events. Real-time captioning (CART) will be provided for selected performances and presentations.
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About the Festival
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors people from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites presenters and performers in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
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