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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I checked the site statistics today to see where my visitors come from. I think it’s one of the coolest features of WordPress, especially when they render that little map showing the countries, color-coded for traffic volume. One country I noticed as absent, especially when looking at the map, is China – how can 1/4 of the world’s people have NEVER looked at my blog, when I’ve gotten hits from places as diverse as Cuba, Cambodia, and the Palestinian Territories? Then I talked to a friend of mine in China, who told me that the Chinese government blocks all blogs at the Great Firewall of China. So clever Chinese users have workarounds and relays they can connect to to read blogs. He demonstrated it for me, and sure enough, my traffic went up in some other country that day (I think it was France, but hard to tell). So I do have Chinese readers, they’re just not showing up as such.
So here’s the alphabetized list of countries and hits. I am using the names of countries as provided by WordPress – if there are any objections to these names, I apologize.
Today, I passed the 20,000 viewers mark. And surprisingly enough, at the time of writing, Egypt was the top viewing country of the day, with 66, and the US came in a distant second at 14. Usually the US is the 800 pound gorilla in the viewership statistics. In a shout-out to my readers, I’d also like to acknowledge the folks in Afghanistan who’ve read my blog – I’m guessing you’re US (or NATO) servicemen and women, but just as cool if you’re Afghan citizens! The one place I’m baffled I’ve not had any visitors from is the PRC – Peoples’ Republic of China.
I’m happy to have anyone who’s interested take a look at my ramblings. If you’d like, please leave me a little note to let me know who you are and where you’re from.
I’m always tickled to death to see where in the world people have been reading my blog from. Here’s the latest stats. They’re fun to ponder – what do some of them mean? Myanmar has more visits than Japan? I now have a visitor from Albania, and two from Nepal. I’m slowly coloring in the world on the world map, which is very cool. I’m only missing a couple of Balkan countries (Bosnia and Macedonia) and Baltics (Estonia and Latvia I believe) to complete all of Europe. China is the big mystery to me – am I blogging about something that either is of no interest at all to the Chinese, or more likely, am I blogging about something that runs afoul of Chinese web filters? Or most likely, my blog doesn’t translate well into Chinese so nobody reads it there. I’m not surprised by Khazakhstan or Mongolia not having anyone reading my blog – there’s very little internet penetration into those two countries to begin with.
In addition to getting some Chinese readers, I’d really love to have someone in Svalbard read my blog – I think that would be super cool as it’s one of the least well known countries. Svalbard, New Guinea, Greenland, the Falkland islands, and Bolivia and Paraguay. So if you know someone in one of those places, or traveling to them, and who actually would be interested in this, please pass along the blog!
Here are three stereoviews of China, taken in the first half-decade of the 20th century. These were produced by Keystone and Underwood & Underwood, two of the biggest producers of stereoviews. They both churned out thousands of these cards as fast as they could be supplied with new images of exotic locales, exotic being very broadly defined. This was foreign travel on the cheap, when it was not only more expensive but more time-consuming and more dangerous. The stereoview both broadened the horizons of their consumer and reinforced existing stereotypes of the day – note that the crowd on the steps in the rice paddy is “jeering natives” – they’re probably all wondering what that idiot gweiloh (white man) is doing putting his head under a blanket on the back of that funny box on the hill across the way.
here are two turn-of-the-20th century souvenir photos from China. They depict performers in the Peking Opera. They come from the period marking the end of single-sex performers, when all roles both male and female would be played by male performers. Gender segregation of the opera began to phase out in the 1920s. For much the same reasons as in the West, Chinese theater was single sex because being an itinerant actor was seen as very much akin to being a prostitute. And despite the attempt to preserve the honor and virtue of women by banning them from performing on stage, the boys who played female roles on the stage themselves became prostitutes. Can’t win for trying, I guess.
I would classify these as genuine “gay interest” images because they represent a moment in history where the enactment of same-sex desire was sanctioned, even if in masquerade. It’s a rarity photographically because in the West, same-sex drama had largely been eliminated well before the photographic era, lingering on symbolically into the 19th century in the operatic tradition of castrati. If anyone out there recognizes the roles these actors are portraying, and the name(s) of the opera(s) they are from, the feedback would be most welcome.