The Smithsonian Folklife Festival returns to the National Mall with stories of land, sea and sky

After a two-year hiatus, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival returns to the National Mall in Washington, DC, with programs designed to spark curiosity, understanding and enjoyment. Visitors to the 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Festival can explore the cultural traditions of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism program through two weeks of workshops, demonstrations, performances, family activities and discussion sessions highlighting the importance of culture and community in creating a sustainable future.

The festival, which runs from June 22-27 and June 30-July 4, will open with an evening concert on Wednesday June 22. Starting June 23, daytime programming will begin at 11 a.m. and run until 6 p.m. daily. Special evening events, including concerts and a film screening, begin shortly after the daytime lineup ends. For the first time, selected evening concerts and daily conversations will be broadcast live. Always free and open to the public, the festival will be located on the National Mall between 7th and 12th Streets.

The festival is presented by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in partnership with the National Park Service. It is funded by federal appropriations; Smithsonian trust funds; contributions from governments, corporations, foundations and individuals; in-kind assistance; and sales of food, recordings and crafts, with additional support from the Timashev Family Foundation.

WATER: Living Landscape | living memory

Living Landscape | Living Memory focuses on the arts, poetry, cuisine and other cultural traditions of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a vibrant young nation with a deep history. Since the formal establishment of a single nation in 1971, the United Arab Emirates has transformed rapidly and profoundly, becoming a thriving urban nation where residents from other parts of the world make up nearly 90% of the population. As the country enters its next half-century, the times that preceded its current prosperity are still in living memory. For many, the environment remains an important influence on the rhythms of life.

Living Landscape | Living Memory will highlight essential skills, cultural practices and knowledge derived from living in harsh landscapes that have served as a cultural crossroads for thousands of years. Through demonstrations and hands-on sessions, visitors will learn about the region’s falconry tradition, maritime culture, musical instruments, classical and contemporary poetry, perfume, coffee and more. Visitors can explore Emirati traditions, past and present, as resources for connecting communities and envisioning a sustainable future.

“Traditional knowledge has an important role to play in finding solutions to some of the world’s most intractable problems,” said Sabrina Lynn Motley, director of the Folklife Festival. “In the United Arab Emirates, it is possible to encounter dynamic connections between past, present and future in everything from green technologies to extraordinary poetry. As the festival has done since its inception, curators are creating a program that draws inspiration from diverse voices on the ground, challenging us to look beyond headlines, generalizations and stereotypes.

WATER: Living Landscape | Sponsorship partners of Living Memory include the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth, and the UAE Embassy in Washington, D.C. Support extra is provided by Etihad Airways.

Earth Optimism × Folklife: Inspiring Conservation Communities

The Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism initiative celebrates what works in conservation. By shifting the narrative from despair and gloom to optimism and possibility, the initiative shines a light on individual and community efforts to address our most pressing challenges.

“I am thrilled to collaborate with my colleagues at the Folklife Festival,” said Ruth Anna Stolk, co-founder of the Earth Optimism program. “Earth Optimism × Folklife is a unique opportunity to share stories and learn from conservation successes. When the focus is on solutions rather than problems, we empower people to replicate and expand these activities in their own communities.”

Visitors will encounter examples of practical solutions and positive change presented by community leaders, innovators, scientists, artists and others working to create a sustainable planet. Visitors can learn how to make an impact locally and globally through workshops, performances, interactive art installations, film screenings including a special presentation of My Garden of a Thousand Bees, hands-on educational activities, cooking and gardening demonstrations, sustainable food concessions, and more. The program will inform, inspire, delight and, above all, leave visitors with hope for the planet.

Sponsoring partners of Earth Optimism × Folklife include the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Amtrak, Ford Motor Company, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios and United Airlines. Additional support is provided by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Marketplace and concessions

This year, the Marketplace Festival is inspired by an open-air Arab souk and will showcase the creativity, cultural heritage and masterful skills of artisans and participants. With products from the United Arab Emirates and various locations representing the Earth Optimism program, visitors will find unique clothing, jewelry, homewares, art, food and wine, and more. at different prices. A special pop-up shop from festival collaborator NOVICA will bring handcrafted products from the world’s largest impact retailer to the National Mall. Festival-branded merchandise and a selection of related Smithsonian Folkways recordings will also be available for purchase. Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Festival Marketplace will be located at Freer Plaza on the National Mall side of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.

Food concessions, featuring traditional UAE flavors and dishes using sustainably sourced products and locally produced ingredients, will be available for purchase throughout the festival.


The festival strives to maintain an accessible and inclusive environment for visitors of all skill levels. Accessible seating is available in all venues and a limited number of wheelchairs are available for loan each day. Assistive listening devices are available, and American Sign Language interpretation, real-time captioning, and audio description will be offered for a wide range of events. Additional resources and materials will be available on site, including large print and braille materials and a festival sensory guide.

The festival will host “Morning on the Mall” events on Sunday, June 26 and Saturday, July 2 at 9:30 a.m. for people with autism, sensory sensitivities, or other cognitive disabilities who could benefit from a more relaxed environment. and supported. For more information and to register for the event, email [email protected].

Updating accessibility services information, resources and hours for the Folklife Festival are available.

Complementary exhibitions

“Falcons: The Art of the Hunt,” an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, features a selection of paintings and artifacts from ancient Egypt to China that offer insight into the fascinating world of falcons. Fast, fierce and loyal, hawks have been celebrated for millennia. In ancient Egypt, they were closely associated with Horus, the god of the skies. At the beginning of the 8th century in Syria, falcons were trained to become skilled hunters in royal courts. The art of falconry quickly spread throughout the rest of the Islamic world, as far as the Byzantine Empire in the West and in the East as far as China. It is still practiced in many societies today, especially in the Arab world. The exhibition runs until July 17 and is free to the public.

“The World in Motion: 250,000 Years of Human Migration” aims to broaden public debate on a topical but timeless subject: migration and displacement. The traveling exhibit opens June 18 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library—Central Library, Washington, DC, the first leg of a tour of U.S. libraries through 2024, after which it will embark on a broader international tour. Designed to allow local host institutions to embed locally significant stories, its highly transportable form allows ephemeral places to be envisioned in a variety of configurations. “World on the Move” is produced by the American Anthropological Association, the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the American Library Association.

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