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  • Day Ten: Top Ten (+1) Photos

    This year’s Folklife Festival ended as it began: with unpredictable atmospheric conditions and a shuffled schedule to keep our participants and staff safe and comfortable. With limited programming, we shifted entirely indoors in preparation for thunderstorms that never came.

    But as a result, the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building and the Rasmuson Theater at the National Museum of the American Indian resounded with thoughtful conversations and participatory song. Visitors still got to dance, try their hands at Kazakh crafts, join in a Balinese Hindu chant, and—importantly—eat gelato. Outside, with a minimal audience, a few artisans brought their Festival contributions to a ceremonial close.

    An intricate Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala sits on a blue tabletop. It has been segmented into slices, and five people reach their arms over top of it with brushes to disperse the sand into the air.
    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. As a reminder of the impermanence of life, the Venerable Lama Losang Samten dispersed the intricate sand mandala he and his assistant Soo Kyong Kim created over nine days of the Festival.
    Photo by Josh Weilepp, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    In a grand hall, a circle of musicians play string instruments for a seated crowd.
    One final Ozarks supergroup music jam took place in the Arts and Industries Building.
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    Five Sikh men and one Sikh woman sit on stage. They sit cross-legged on a raised platform. They play various stringed instruments and a drum.
    “Show yourself a little bit of care and love. I promise you it is worth it, every single second,” shared Surinder Singh of Raj Academy during today’s performance at the National Museum of the American Indian. Words of wisdom! Their instruments include the taus, the saranda, the rabab, and the jori drum.
    Photo by Joshua Davis, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    From behind, a person looks up toward the U.S. Capitol Building, wearing a pink and orange headwrap and a cape made with many different types and colors of fabric and beaded text: Black Queer Sunshine.
    Throughout the Festival, Cory Perry from Arkansas stitched this patchwork cape, incorporating fabrics from friends back home and visitors on the Mall. In their final act of queer and Black visibility, Cory donned the cape and black veil over their face and marched from the Festival grounds to the Capitol Building. In their words, “We are here, we are present in the face of this entity that is actively working against us.”
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A young man stands in front of a large woven sail, leaning against the body of a wooden boat.
    After three days of visitors needle-felting tufted sheeps’ wool, the Kazakh carpet was soaped, washed, and dried, revealing a beautiful design with a smooth texture.
    Photo by Toby Hettler, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A man in a striped conical hat and blue floral jacket DJs on a turntable.
    DJ Duane brought his Sunday Service to the Arts and Industries Building, bringing visitors to the tiled dance floor.
    Photo by Phillip R. Lee, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A man, seated, talks into a microphone.
    Kiran Singh Sirah was our resident storyteller, recording visitors’ spiritual stories and sharing his own every day at the Kitchen Table. He helped us wrap up with one last tale today.
    Photo by Gideon DeMarco, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    An intricately painted egg with a dark green background and a red flower with orange lines in the middle sits in an egg carton.
    Laryssa Czebiniak, known professionally as Larysanky, showed visitors the art of pysanky eggs—a Ukrainian tradition marking the return of the sun and the rebirth of spring.
    Photo by Stanley Turk, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    From above, a group of people gather in a circle, their hands raised in the air. At the center of the circle, a Balinese man chants.
    Balinese performance scholar I Wayan Dibia led us in a kecak workshop and chant-along, echoing through the halls of the Arts and Industries Building.
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A man plays harmonica on stage.
    Blues musician and D.C. native Phil Wiggins has been performing at the Folklife Festival in different musical iterations since he was a teenager. Tonight, for our closing concert, he was accompanied by guitarist Hubby Jenkins and joined for a finale by Dom Flemons.
    Photo by Phillip R. Lee, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    Thank you to all our photographers, most of whom volunteer their time and talents to help us document every special moment: Rameshwar Bhatt, Shannon Binns, Grace Bowie, Julie Byrne, Joshua Davis, Gideon DeMarco, Craig Fergus, Toby Hettler, Hsin-Wen Hsu, Phillip R. Lee, Carys Owen, Vivianne Peckham, Gabriel Sokol, Stanley Turk, Ronald Villasante, JB Weilepp, Josh Weilepp, Amy Wilson, Hillary Yoon, Mark C. Young, Daniel Zhang, Helen Zhang, and lead photographer Sonya Pencheva. It’s a pleasure to work with you!

    And finally, thanks to you—readers, visitors, viewers from afar—for your engagement, your contributions, and your curiosity. We hope the Festival has helped you open your eyes, ears, and all senses to the richness of cultural diversity in the Ozarks and across the United States. We hope you’ve been inspired to try a new art form, travel to new places, and continue difficult but generative conversations. In lieu of a proper Festival Marketplace this year, we hope you find our participants online, follow them on social media, and support them in other ways. We hope you’ll keep an eye on the Festival Blog as we share feature articles and videos from the past two weeks, and on the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage where this type of work continues throughout the year.

    And we hope we’ll see you again in 2024!

    A large group of people in blue T-shirts stand in front of a large trailer, smiling at the camera. The trailer is painted with an orange background and light orange diamonds and squares. The text on the trailer reads “The Smithsonian Folklife Festival.”
    The Smithsonian Folklife Festival doesn’t happen without the hard work of our staff and interns. These are just some of the folks who are behind the scenes every day, sunrise to sunset, bringing the National Mall to life every summer—others were too busy to join the photo shoot!
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    Team Top Ten, signing off.

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