The Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2018, scheduled to take place in Washington, DC from 27 June until 8 July, is going to turn its special attention to Armenia and Catalonia, which are for the first time ever participating in the event.
Armenia: Creating Home will be Armenia’s slogan for the 51st annual event which the organizers believe will be a good opportunity for the country to gain a better recognition on the international arena.
The festival centers around the preservation of cultural heritage by raising awareness of different nations’ folk culture, music, arts and crafts, according to Halle Butvin, Curator, and Director of Special Projects at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
“The festival has an overall theme over community-based cultural heritage enterprise. That’s not the name of the festival; that’s the theme that orients the research that goes into developing the festival,” she told Tert.am.
Asked how they had come up with the decision to invite Armenia, Ms Butvin highlighted Foundation’s interest in the country as their key motivating factor. “The Smithsonian has been very active in Armenia for the last three years. We have the ‘My Armenia’ cultural heritage tourism program which has provided a really great opportunity for us to do research in the communities throughout Armenia. And as we were conducting research – through our partnership with the Institute for Archaeology and Ethnography – we realized over time that the folklife festival was a great platform to be able to share some of the narratives that we had really kind of pulled together as a part of that project.
“And the combination of the Government’s desire to promote tourism in the country seemed like an excellent match. It’s quite interesting because a lot of times, it doesn’t happen this way. But the Smithsonian had a strong interest in Armenia and was driven by brilliant relationships really – rather than any kind of application,” she added.
The Armenian Embassy in Washington and the US Embassy in Yerevan also had their serious contribution to the project. Ms Butvin says they additionally received considerable assistance from many partners, including the Government of Armenia, the Ministry of Culture and the State Tourism Committee.
She also highly praised the Diaspora communities’ contribution. “They have been very generous. And the are still fundraising to reach our full goal for the festival,” she added.
Commenting on the mission and vision of the program, Levon Abrahamyan, a correspondent member of the National Academy of Sciences and a researcher at the National Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, said he sees a good potential to promote the development of incoming tourism in Armenia and improve the country’s international image in general.
“Tourism development is really something we pin great hopes on today – as do all the other newly-independent countries; so we are not an exception in this sense. Festivals of the kind contribute a lot to Armenia’s recognition – not only as a tourism destnation but also as a country in general. It is really important. because I am personally aware – as a person who has travelled to the United States many times in the status of a guest lecturer – that they know very little about Armenia. Very often, they do not even know where Armenia is. So this festival may allow as many as 1 million people to pass across this territory, because it is also the path to their independence. As July 4 marks the United States’ Independence Day, they also have a great number of incoming tourists on that day. Also, it is a very serious occasion for them to get to know Armenia in a kind of unexpected way,” he noted.
Abrahamyan said they now think about re-editing the festival’s title in Armenian (Creating Armenian home instead of Armenia: Creatung Home) to convey a special message also to the diaspora communities.
“[All we want to say is] that the home we are presenting is really Armenian. Additionally, it contains also an internal message that it is not just the home created in Armenia, i.e. – that those who live outside of Armenia continue feeling their Armenian identity and preserving the Armenian traditions. It will motivate them to feel more strongly attached to their historical motherland. So we expect also their contribution to this process, and we do already see specific outcomes. Our idea is to introduce the Armenian nation in general, not just the small country of Armenia,” he added.