This year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival, opening Wednesday, focuses on Armenia and the Spanish region of Catalonia. Here’s a look at what to expect.
National Mall between 12th and 14th streets; Wed. through July 1 & July 4-8, various times, free.
“Armenia: Creating Home”
Because of Armenia’s place at the crossroads of modern history — two world wars, the Armenian genocide — a huge portion of Armenians are displaced across the world. How Armenians preserve their culture outside of the country is the focus of this part of the festival. Visitors can learn traditional handicrafts like carpet weaving and mosaics. And, of course, there will be food: lavash, a flatbread; khorovats, similar to kebabs; and ghapama, a fruit- and nut-stuffed pumpkin that’s usually served around Christmas.
“Catalonia: Tradition and Creativity from the Mediterranean”
This region of Spain has spent much of its history under various levels of oppression, both of its culture and its language, Catalan (which was banned in schools and government from 1939 to 1975). Among the crafts that have survived, and will appear multiple times throughout Folklife, are capgrossos, the large, slightly terrifying papier-mache heads worn by marchers in the region’s parades. One of the more unique Catalan traditions you can see during the festival is the castell, or human tower, where people climb onto one another until they reach several stories high.
Sisterfire: Roadwork 40th Anniversary Concert
From 1982 to 1989, Roadwork — a group founded in 1978 to promote global arts and social justice — staged Sisterfire music festivals in D.C. The gatherings featured minority and marginalized performers, with an emphasis on women and lesbians. In that spirit, Folklife will host workshops and music and poetry performances on July 7 and 8. A concert celebrating Roadwork’s 40th anniversary will close out the festival at the Ralph Rinzler Concert Stage and will feature Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely, Holly Near, Bernice Johnson Reagon and more.