The music of bolivia that is played on guitars was said to help revitalise tradition and to bring about awareness of the culture.
Designer Alfred Haynes explaining his process and inspiration to curious festival-goers.
I couldn’t help but to feel a little bothered by the fact that the only food provided and chosen to give a representation of the African American culture at the Folk Life Festival was chicken and waffles.
When you think about how many African/African American communities there are in the United States alone, what comes to mind? I think of crawfish and gumbo from New Orleans, soul food from the south (which usually consists of greens, “chitlins”, hot water corn bread, etc.) and its relation to the life of slaves. I also think of those Haitian and Jamaican communities who also have a vast range of food delicacies. The food that has become apart of the African American household has a history, has an origin, and has a reason that it is still being cooked and prepared by our families today. So, I ask why the Festival would resort to choosing something as stereotypical as chicken, waffles, and watermelon as the food selections for the African American heritage?
The belief that black people only favor certain foods simplifies our culture and reduces us to a deficient culture that lacks differentiation. Honestly, every time I walked by that large sign that read “CHICKEN & WAFFLES” an image of an African American in disintegrating clothing, barefoot with unkempt hair and a speech impediment came to mind. I would also imagine him hungrily holding a chicken leg in one hand and using the other to slop down a watermelon slice.
I mean, why not add kool aid packages and food stamps as souvenirs…
As I mentioned in a previous post, what is apparent about the Hungarian culture, as well as the majority of the other cultures showcased at the festival, is the fact that the people really enjoyed the process of making.
The woman shown above is making a blanket using a weaving loom- a machine that not only dates back since the dawn of time, but also utilizes all parts of the body. Her feet enable the machine to work, putting the process in motion. Using a shuttle, she uses one hand to feed the thread through, while the other maneuvers a wooden block that fuses that thread into the rest of the pattern. She is focused and accurate, but then again you have to be to use this intimating contraption!
Being that we live in a digital and technology-driven world composed of 3d printing and other computer aided tools that speed up production, it is certainly refreshing to see a retrieval of more traditional practices that force the designer/user to become more diligent and also appreciative of craft. It is also important to recognize that through the practice of making blankets and patters, the culture is once again revived through the process. It reminds us of how the ancestors of the Hungarian culture went about producing quality, hand crafted goods for their community or for trade.