Visitors to the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will have a unique opportunity to experience the cultural heritage of Armenia, a small country nestled at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. The 2018 Festival, which runs from June 27 to July 1 and July 4 to 8, will feature hundreds of artisans, designers, musicians, and cooks from Armenia, Catalonia, and other locations to highlight the importance of cultural heritage enterprise in the face of change. Presented through ten days of workshops, demonstrations, participatory experiences, and discussion sessions, the Armenian program on gastronomic and artisan craft traditions will allow visitors to learn about how Armenian communities have integrated heritage into their own strategies for economic and cultural sustainability.
“The exuberant hospitality of Armenian cooking, eating, and drinking is a source of cultural pride,” said Halle Butvin, one of the program’s curators. “We hope to convey how its deep history, a tradition of feasting and innovations in technique are energizing Armenia’s food scene.”
Visitors will learn to make the staples of an Armenian feast: breads, cheeses, and barbecued meats (khorovats). While tasting and toasting Armenian wines, visitors will learn about the recent discovery of a 6,100-year-old winery in a cave in Armenia, and how winemakers in that same region are reinvigorating the industry through their production, from cultivating ancient varietals and aging wine in traditional clay pots (karas), to a winery incubator model encouraging the growth of small labels. Participants will share their experiences with traditional Armenian recipes and the ways in which food- and wine-related enterprises have shaped their cultural identity and created a pathway for exchange—both within Armenia’s boundaries and across its many diasporas.
Continuing the Festival’s ongoing exploration of creativity, change, and resilience, a participatory program highlighting the revitalization of Armenian craft will showcase the intersection of technology and handmade traditions. Visual artists and artisans will work together to build interactive installations juxtaposing tradition and innovation. Visitors will engage with Armenian designers and artisans; learning, observing, and trying their hand at weaving, embroidery, and carving. Discussion sessions will explore the function of craft, not only its utilitarian and economic value, but as a continually evolving cultural expression—a way to make meaning.
“Throughout Armenia’s history, and especially in periods of marked change, these traditions are a life-affirming testament to the longstanding power of social and cultural life,” Butvin said. “Memory and experience are interwoven into Armenian food and craft, and we invite visitors to explore this firsthand next summer on the National Mall.”
Armenia program partners include the Department of Contemporary Anthropological Studies at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, the My Armenia Cultural Heritage Tourism Program, funded by USAID and implemented by the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Embassy in Armenia and the Embassy of Armenia to the United States of America.