Skip to main content
Previous | Next >

1991 Festival of American Folklife

June 28-July 7, 1991

The 1991 Festival programs were largely about human relationships to land. Indonesian land punctuates sea and ocean to form some 13,000 volcanic islands. On these islands is an amazing diversity of environments, ranging from the sandy beaches of Sumatra to snowcapped mountains that rise above the rainforests in Irian Jaya on New Guinea. To sample this diversity, the Festival presented cultural traditions from three particular environments - the forests of Kalimantan, the fields of Java, and the sea coast of Sulawesi. Half a world away from Indonesia and much closer to home is the American "heartland." American culture embodies a few elemental self-images with mythic stature - the frontier is surely one; the family farm is surely another. The idea of the family farm also entails some of our strongest values - hard work, self-reliance, family solidarity, and community life, all on view to Festival visitors.

For millennia before Columbus's arrival in the New World, native peoples gathered and cultivated its bounty, bred new crops, derived medicines to cure sickness, mined ores for making tools and ornaments, used its earth, stone and wood for building homes, made dyes for cloth, and invented ways of preparing and cooking food. Land and its use informed social, moral, religious, and cosmological beliefs, and sacred and secular practices. Some of this knowledge and practice of land use and its symbolic elaboration in artistic forms are continued among many Native American groups. At the Festival, culture bearers from the Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian people from Alaska; Hopi from Arizona; Maya and Lacandón from Chiapas, Mexico; Zapotec and Ikood from Oaxaca, Mexico; Shuar, Achuar, and Canelos Quichua from Ecuador; Jalq'a and Tiwanaku from Bolivia; and Taquile from Peru illustrated how the land in many varied environments is cared for and thought about, and how, almost five hundred years after Columbus, the wise and humane use, the knowledge and power of land must be re-"discovered."

The 1991 Festival, which also featured a program on the roots of rhythm and blues, took place for two four-day weeks (June 28-July 1 and July 4-7) 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 1991 Program Book included schedules and participant lists for each program; keynote essays on each of the four programs were supplemented by shorter pieces focusing on particular topics.

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.