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Visitors to the 44th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival can be a part of the Smithsonian’s efforts to help Haitian artisans and musicians recover from the earthquake that devastated their nation in January 2010. The Festival previously highlighted the country in the 2004 program “Haiti: Freedom and Creativity from the Mountains to the Sea.”
The Festival will be held Thursday, June 24, through Monday, June 28, and Thursday, July 1, through Monday, July 5, 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 such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.
The Smithsonian is involved in cultural recovery and revitalization in Haiti, and this year’s Festival is directly assisting by sponsoring artists and musicians and selling crafts. A special evening concert will feature Boukman Eksperyans, and two artists will be in residence at the Festival and will demonstrate their craft and talk with visitors in the Festival’s Marketplace. In addition, the crafts of 77 Haitian artists will be on sale in the Marketplace. The crafts include paintings, metalwork, beadwork, papier-mâche, Vetiver baskets and stone statues ranging in price from $3 to $1,800. All proceeds will support the reinvigoration of traditional crafts in Haiti.
Boukman Eksperyans will perform at the Festival June 26 at 6 p.m. on the Asian Fusion stage. The group is known for its worldly high-energy sound, which fuses traditional Haitian and Caribbean rhythms with rock and reggae. Their debut album, Vodou Adjae, ushered in a musical revolution and earned the group a Grammy nomination, while making them honorary spokespeople for the Haitian people. Since their emergence on the world scene, the group has continued to release critically acclaimed albums and delight audiences around the world.
During the first week of the Festival, Haitian artist Mireille Delisme will be in the Marketplace to talk with visitors and demonstrate her art. Delisme sews Voodoo designs that she learned from her father, an oungan (Voodoo specialist), into sequined flags.
During the second week of the Festival, painter Levoy Exil, one of the original members and best-known artists to emerge from the Saint Soleil school, will be in the Marketplace to discuss his work with visitors. The Saint Soleil school was an art movement initiated in the early 1970s when members of a mountain community, who had never painted before, were given art materials in an experiment on spirituality, spontaneity and art. Exil was one of the original members and best-known artists to emerge from the movement. His work has been in exhibits, including major shows in Rome; Paris; Bonn, Germany; as well as in Haiti and the United States.
About the Festival
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors tradition bearers from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites visitors 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. The Festival’s website is http://www.festival.si.edu.
The Smithsonian in Haiti
In May, the Smithsonian announced it is leading a team of cultural organizations to help the Haitian government assess, recover and restore Haiti’s cultural materials damaged by the earthquake. A building in Port-au-Prince that once housed the United Nations Development Programme will be leased by the Smithsonian and serve as a temporary conservation site where objects retrieved from the ruble can be assessed, conserved and stored. It will also be the training center for Haitians who will be taking over this conservation effort in the future.
“The Healing Power of Art: Works of Art by Haitian Children after the Earthquake”
Nearly 100 paintings and drawings created by Haiti’s young people at Plas Timoun (The Children’s Place) are featured in “The Healing Power of Art: Works of Art by Haitian Children after the Earthquake.” The exhibition will be on view in the concourse of the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center from June 17 to Oct. 17. It is sponsored by the National Museum of African Art.
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