‘Daa-naa-yash vn ghii Smithsonian Dee-ne Xwee-nish Lhestlh-xat!’
Now you can say “Welcome to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival” to Alfred “Bud” Lane, the only fluent speaker of Siletz Dee-ni left on Earth. Lane will demonstrate the Siletz Indians’ traditional basket-weaving techniques as one of 310 cultural ambassadors attending the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall (through Sunday, then July 3-7). About a million visitors are expected at the celebration, which this year will spotlight endangered languages, Hungarian culture and African-American style. Here’s a look at the fest’s most intriguing numbers, from one to 1.5 million.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival runs through Sunday and July 3-7 on the National Mall. For a full schedule, visit festival.si.edu.
Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival
Hungary is in the midst of a folk revival — and young, cosmopolitan citizens are leading the way. “Urban people are reaching back to traditional communities to find interesting ways of being Hungarian,” Mason says. In many cities, they are establishing traditional dance houses, and the Folklife festival is following suit with a dance barn of its own. Get your groove with the help of Hungarian musicians, including players of:
19 Orchestral string instruments (violin, viola, bass)
6 Strummed string instruments (guitar, mandolin, lute)
5 Woodwind instruments (flute, clarinet)
4 Brass instruments (French horn, trumpet)
This dulcimerlike instrument, left, includes about 125 metal strings hammered with spoon-shaped mallets. See it in action on July 7 at 11:45 a.m. at the Heritage House.
A lap-cello played with a stick instead of a bow, these percussive instruments will set the beat during a performance of Gyímes dances on the Danubia Stage on Saturday at 4 p.m.
A fiddle played with a wheel instead of a bow, this instrument will churn out tunes at the Heritage House on July 6 at 11:45 a.m.
Width of the wooden peacock tail that adorns the 25-foot Peacock Tower, the architectural centerpiece of the festival. The tower, modeled after the Chrysler Building, uses the traditional Transylvanian motif to symbolize the fusion of modern and folk influences.
The Will to Adorn: African-American Diversity, Style, and Identity
In 1934, folklorist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston wrote that “the will to adorn” is vital to African-American expression. Prayers, stories, decor and clothes are “tooled and polished until they are true works of art.” That observation launched a Folklife research initiative to explore the vast diversity of styles among members of the African diaspora in America. “Style and body arts allow people to express who they are … what their values are, and what’s important to them,” Mason says. In addition to six tailors and designers, check out the following artisans:
3 hair braiders
Malaika Tamu Cooper, owner of Baltimore’s Dreadz N Headz salon, will demonstrate braid and loc techniques in the Design Studio on July 3 and 4, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Dennis “Denny Moe” Mitchell, inventor of singer Bobby Brown’s “Gumby” hairstyle, will be talking about his experience as barber to the stars in the Design Studio Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Andrea Bray of Silver Spring will be showcasing her handmade church hats on July 5 and 7 in the Design Studio, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
1 henna artist
3 jewelry artists
1 Kente weaver
1 “DIY Couture” artist
Approximate number of feathers in a typical Carnival costume by Al Haynes, left, who is from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage
Twenty-one percent of the 7,105 languages spoken worldwide are in danger of disappearing as younger generations learn the tongues of television and tourism — often Mandarin, Spanish and English. However, cultural groups worldwide are striving to hold on to their words and the wisdom they contain, says festival director Michael Mason: “There is an enormous amount of knowledge about the natural world that is captured in these languages, knowledge that can be very useful to the larger global community.” At the festival, 140 participants will represent 12 languages.
1 fluent speaker in the world
Siletz Dee-ni, in Oregon
The only living speaker of this Native American language, Alfred “Bud” Lane, will demonstrate traditional dances and speak about his efforts to revitalize the Siletz language and culture during the second half of the festival, including on July 3 at 1:15 p.m. on the Talk Story stage.
Koro, in India
Researchers discovered villagers in northeast India speaking this previously unknown Tibeto-Burman language in 2008. Five native speakers will be making baskets and building spirit houses every day of the festival.
Garifuna, in Latin America, Belize and the United States
The descendants of escaped African slaves who intermarried with Carib Indians will perform drumming and dance every day of the festival on the Voices of the World stage, including July 4 at 12:30 p.m.
1.5 million speakers
Yiddish, in the United States, Israel and Germany
A Germanic language written in the Hebrew alphabet, Yiddish was once widespread. Hear klezmer songs by New York’s An-sky Yiddish Heritage Ensemble on the Voices of the World stage the first week of the festival, including Friday at 2 p.m.