Skip to main content
Previous | Next >

1989 Festival of American Folklife

June 23-July 4, 1989

In commemoration of our common French and American covenants of human rights and in recognition of our common French heritage, the 1989 Festival celebrated the Bicentennial of the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (on display during the Festival in the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building). One of the Festival's four programs thus featured Francophone musicians and craftspeople from France, Quebec, New England, Louisiana, Missouri, and North Dakota.

The Hawai'i program included the descendants of immigrants, mainly from the Pacific rim (but also from the Atlantic), who came to the islands to work on plantations, enduring servitude and hardship in hope of a better life. Hawai'i is unique in that its indigenous culture suffuses its society as a whole, giving nuance to the forms of immigrant cultures that came there. This thirtieth anniversary of Hawaii's statehood invited the Smithsonian to reflect upon human cultural freedom - equity for and conservation of traditional cultures, as the Festival celebrated the vitality and open spirit of an indigenous Hawaiian culture that endured political, ideological and commercial attempts to restrict its practice and growth.

The continuity of culture depends upon access to various natural, social, and cultural resources. We bridle at unfair restrictions of such access that limit our freedom to realize our visions of who we are. The American Indian program in 1989 examined such restrictions and their impact upon contemporary tribal life. What happens when tribal rituals depend on endangered species, or traditional means of subsistence are threatened by land and water pollution? The program also illustrated attempts by various tribes to gain freedom over their cultural future through the innovative management of traditional resources.

The Caribbean program illustrated the historical flow of cultural and aesthetic ideas between diverse Native, European, and African populations in several island societies. Caribbean populations are characterized by the creative creolization of music, food, language, and art. Indeed, this encounter of diverse peoples defined the New World that developed in the wake of the Columbian voyages, whose 500th anniversary would be commemorated a few years later, in 1992. The Festival hosted contingents of musicians from Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico so that Americans could hear their musics and the complex historical tale they tell about the making of the New World.

The 1989 Festival took place for two five-day weeks (June 23-27 and June 30-July 4) between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive and between 10th Street and 14th Street, south of the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History. The 1989 Program Book included schedules and participant lists for each program; the Program Book featured four substantial essays, each laying out in depth the rationale for one of the four Festival programs.

The Festival was co-presented by the Smithsonian Institution and National Park Service and organized by the Office of Folklife Programs.

Previous | Next >

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.