2020 Cultural Focus: Living Legacies
For nearly 50 years, Northwest Folklife has supported and collaborated with over 100 diverse cultural communities of the Pacific Northwest region to preserve, cultivate and share ‘living traditions’. Daily creativity, family traditions, community customs – folklife is a part of our daily lives.
The US Library of Congress says ’folklife’ is “the everyday and intimate creativity that all of us share and pass onto the next generation.”
Communities comprised through familial, occupational, religious, regional and shared commonalities, have enriched audiences throughout Northwest Folklife’s programs with a wide range of cultural and creative expressions. This includes customs and beliefs, food and cuisine, language, music and stories, art and crafts, dance and song. These customs and traditions are powerful expressions of community life, strengthening us as a community by connecting us to our roots, grounding us firmly in the present and supplying us with a sense of identity and purpose.
As Northwest Folklife looks ahead to celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2021, it is the stories and traditions of the region that serve as the foundation and significance behind our organization and work. Join in preserving, supporting and cultivating our community’s cultural endowment through Cultural Focus: Living Legacies. We’ll be creating a Living Legacies Toolkit to document and capture family heritage and stories in tandem with our organization as we build a retrospective for our 50th anniversary and legacy for generations to come.
2020 Cultural Focus: Living Legacies will have four components: (1) Development of a Living Legacies Toolkit to share with communities to preserve, document and capture their stories; (2) Fieldwork and Documentation; (3) Archiving and Digitization, and; (4) Production of Podcasts, Digital and Anthological Booklet.
Living Legacies Toolkit – Northwest Folklife will develop a hands-on toolkit for communities around the Pacific Northwest to document and transmit cultural knowledge, including a how-to guide on preparing for the interview, how to conduct an interview, examples of questions and how to use available recording devices such as phones. In partnership with Jack Straw Cultural Center, the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions, and Washington State Parks Folk & Traditions program, the toolkit will be offered in community centers and State Parks through Living Legacies in the Parks. Living Legacies in Parks brings the toolkit to the people with documentation stations at community celebrations of regional heritage that engage local culture keepers and organizations.
Fieldwork and Documentation – This will include in-depth audio interviews with culture bearers of the region’s communities. We will also work with individuals who founded Northwest Folklife, including Vivian Williams, heralded as a master fiddler, as well as one of the first folklorists of regional music through her recording company, Voyager Recordings. Working with our Advisory team, we will identify culture bearers that have enriched the region, prioritizing the contributions from communities that historically have had been less visible or misrepresented histories. Potential individuals include master Egyptian Oud player, Maurice Rouman (Sadak); Tlingit tribal elder, Anna Haala; family of the late Zimbabwean master musician, Dumisani Maraire Sr.; and Patrinell Wright, director of the Total Experience Gospel Choir and founding member of Seattle’s first funk band, Wheedle’s Groove.
Archiving and Digitization – Since 1972, Northwest Folklife has produced the Northwest Folklife Festival, one of the largest, access for all festivals in the nation, presenting more than 5,000 performers. These recordings are valuable historical documents that track the cultural heritage from tradition-bearers. Among hundreds of examples, the tapes contain music from Swedish fiddlers, Skandia Spelmanslag; musicians from the Asian and Pacific Island communities; string bands from the transplanted Tarheel community in Darrington, Washington; mariachi bands from the Yakima Valley; and Native American singers and dancers from many Northwest tribes. Other recordings contain songs by folk singers whose materials reflect the social and political movements of the last half-century, including veterans of the earliest hootenannies in Seattle before World War II through the feminist humor of the Righteous Mothers to Jim Page’s songs of the 1999 WTO protests. These recordings and photographs will be digitized, inventoried, and stored in our digital cloud library.
Podcasts, Digital and Anthological Booklet – Working with Jack Straw Cultural Center, we will record 25 audio interviews and produce 10 radio stories from the collection of documented culture bearers. These stories, from the Living Legacies Toolkit and from Northwest Folklife’s fieldwork, will be collected, digitized, gathered and printed for the retrospective booklet and website.
Kelli Faryar, Executive Artistic Director | kelli (@) nwfolklife.org | (206) 684-7014