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USA Sikhs Leave An Indelible Mark In Smithsonian’s Annual Folklife Festival 2010

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - For the first time in 44 years of Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival history Sikh community from greater Washington Metropolitan area participated in various activities over ten day period. The Folklife festival is conducted by the Smithsonian Institution every year and this year it was from June 24th until July 5th. Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, an active Sikh Gurdwara organization based in Rockville, Maryland, led the Sikh participation in the festival. The Sikhs had a large role to play in displaying their heritage, identity, tradition, and culture as part of the presentations on Asian Pacific Americans, one of three major themes chosen for this year in addition to Mexico and Smithsonian Workforce.

The opening night concert featured high energy song and dance in the form of Bhangra and Giddha. It featured over 60 participants.

July 1 saw the Sikh team performing the entire day. It started with an introduction on Fox TV. Different team leaders were selected by GGSF coordinators to showcase the Sikh community’s presence in America.

There was Gurbani Kirtan, turban tying, henna tattoos, trying on Punjabi clothes, and having visitors get their names written in Gurmukhi calligraphy, teaching Gurmukhi language, and of course Punjabi cooking. At the family activities tent several turbaned Sikh youth men and women tirelessly wrapped turbans and helped people try Punjabi clothing.

The Sikh Kirtani Jatha of GGSF consisted of over 50 adults, youth and children as young as five years old. They took turns explaining the meaning of the Sikh hymns.

The performances on July 1 on the Asian Fusions stage showed that it was not just about Bhangra and Giddha, but that devotional hymn singing and music also play a large role in the community and the culture.

Phil Nash, PTN Curator of the APA Program, 2010 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, said, “The head covering that had been demonized after 9-11 suddenly became a much-desired object of male adornment, and it was fun to see red-haired, blue-eyed teens strutting around the mall, showing off to their friends about their cool new look. I hope that this lesson stays with them as we continue to navigate the seas of cultural difference in the years ahead.”

Punjabi cooking aroma took over the National Mall as volunteers demonstrated the home style cooking. They shared with the audience their recipes of chicken curry, raita, mango lassi, fruit chaat, and chaat pappari.

On July 4 Sikhs also were part of the talk story panel titled, “Immigration stories- How we got here”.

Four out of the six presenters were Sikhs. In addition to Gagan Kaur, Jessi Kaur, Mandeep Singh Bawa and Divjot Singh Bawa also shared their own stories. They narrated their struggles to maintain their identity in the United States, the different national Sikh organizations, and programs in place to help the Sikh youth.

In addition to manifold activities, Sikhs were represented on panels APA Healthways at the talk story by Dr Harpal Singh Mangat and ““Peace and Healing: Integrating Asian and European Medical Traditions by Dr Harminder Kaur.

Dr. Rajwant Singh Executive Director of GGSF and Ravi Singh were emcee on the opening night


http://www.indiajournal.com/pages/event.php?id=11972
 

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