July 4th – Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Every year at the end of June/beginning of July the Smithsonian Institute puts on the Folklife Festival down on the National Mall. They bring in craftspeople from various cultures around the globe to demonstrate ways of life in those cultures, from farming and fishing to music and dance. This year China and Kenya were the countries represented. I went down on the 4th of July this year to take a look and see what was on display.

You could see this pavilion on the mall from 14th Street every day driving by. I wondered what it was all about and had to stop and see it close up. The building is built like a traditional Chinese city gate, but made of a bamboo frame and covered in paper. I never did see what the Zuni Icosahedron thing on the front of the gate meant.

Zuni Icosahedron Chinese Pavilion
Zuni Icosahedron Chinese Pavilion

Sometimes it’s just the simple things that attract your attention. This banner flapping in the wind made such a bold graphic statement with its geometry contrasting with the organic cloud forms.

Chinese Banner, Folklife Festival
Chinese Banner, Folklife Festival

Here are the bamboo wind chimes that filled the structure of the paper gate. One thing that amazed me was how fast they were able to disassemble the gate structure – it was literally up one day, gone the next. You can take that as a commentary on the ephemeral nature of existence if you like.

Bamboo Wind Chimes, China Pavilion
Bamboo Wind Chimes, China Pavilion

In the Kenyan area of the festival, they had this traditional fishing boat on display, and Kenyan craftsmen were working on rebuilding it. Not visible here but in the stern were areas that had obviously seen significant wear and tear.

Kenyan Boat, Folklife Festival, Side View
Kenyan Boat, Folklife Festival, Side View
Kenyan Boat, Folklife Festival
Kenyan Boat, Folklife Festival

And finally, as part of the Chinese installation, was this figure. I’m calling him Bao’s Big Boy as he looks like a Chinese Bob’s, or perhaps the love child of Bob’s Big Boy and Astroboy if they were to have a relationship. Toss in a dose of Young Pioneer and you’ve nailed it.

Bao's Big Boy?
Bao’s Big Boy?

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