Thursday, October 15 until the end of November WACAI will be engaging in a small series of interviews, blogs, and social media posts designed to put a spotlight on seven Black cultural artists throughout the state of Oregon to elevate their work and discuss how racism affects their lives. This series is a partnership between West African Cultural Arts Institute and Oregon Folklife Network (OFN), a program of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. OFN which is housed in the Knight Library on the University of Oregon  campus is a nonprofit organization that makes a meaningful difference in Oregon communities and Tribes by documenting, supporting, and celebrating diverse cultural traditions and by empowering tradition-bearers.

Their programs like Culture Fest, Traditional Artist Apprenticeship Program, and the Statewide Folklife Survey give paid opportunities to traditional artists and “culture keepers” around the state. Their Culture Keepers OFN’s Culture Keepers Roster is an online, juried selection of excellent folk and traditional artists and cultural experts documented through OFN’s regional surveys and outreach. This curated Roster features only those with strong cultural ties to their traditional art forms committed to preserving and perpetuating those cultural forms. Cultural artists must demonstrate excellent craftsmanship and the ability to share traditions through public demonstrations, performances, and presentations.

While OFN promotes many different “Culture Keepers” that range from Native Basket Weavers and Storytellers to Chinese Rod Puppetry, from Palestinian Embroidery to Andean Instrument Making, from Fisher Poetry to Buckaroo Gear Makers, and from Norwegian Chefs to Mexican Ballet Folklorico, this series features Black culture keepers as part of a campaign to amplify Black voices at a time when people are paying better attention to issues of systemic inequality.

Folk and traditional arts are everyday practices that connect people to their heritage in meaningful ways. These artists practice commonplace culture at a level of expertise that elevates the ordinary to the extraordinary. We are honored to feature Norman Sylvester (R & B musician), Mic Crenshaw (MC, poetry slam and Hip Hop artist), LaRhonda Steele (gospel singer), Wambui Machua (Kenyan chef), Baba Wague Diakite (Malian multi-media artist), and Alseny and Papa Yansane (Guinean drummers).

WACAI will be conducting two interviews that will be broadcast as a live stream on Facebook Live. One will be with Baba Wague Diakite October 15 and the other will be with WACAI’s own, Alseny and Papa Yansane on October 22. Both interviews will be on these two consecutive Thursdays from 7-7:30 pm and can be viewed on West African Cultural Arts Institute’s Facebook page. Tune in this Thursday and next to learn more about these talented artists from Mali and Guinea, see their work, and learn what it is like for them to live here in Oregon as Black people. Each week following, the four other Portland based artists will be featured through blogs, social media posts, and aired pre-recorded interviews.

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