Festival Showcases Cultures of Armenia, Catalonia (photos)

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Human towers, known in Catalan as castells, with Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls. Photo by Jeff Malet.

The 52nd annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which concluded July 8, showcased the living cultures of Armenia and Catalonia. Armenia President Armen Sarkissian and President of the Generalitat of Catalonia Quim Torra were on hand during the opening ceremonies.

In villages, towns and cities, everyday life in Catalonia revolves around a civic calendar marked by the feasts of the patron saints, known as festes majors. The Folklife Festival faithfully transported these colorful demonstrations of Catalan culture to the National Mall with music and dance performances at the “Plaça Major” public space, with dancing giant figures and devils bedecked in black capes.

The Catalonia program featured the building of human towers called castells, which were central to early nationalist celebrations. At the Folklife Festival, Catalans would stand on each other’s shoulders, building towers as high as eight levels over the Mall. More than 300 people from Catalonia from two competing groups participated.

The “Armenia: Creating Home” program explored the ways in which creative enterprises such as artisan craft, local food and wine production “sustain communities, foster intergenerational learning, stimulate economies, and anchor cultural identities in Armenia and its many diasporas.” The program capped off on the final weekend with the Handes! Armenian Dance Summit.

View Jeff Malet’s photos from the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival by clicking on the photo icons below.

 

 

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