17th Annual Folk Life Festival Shaping Up To Be Best Yet

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The theme of this year’s annual Folk Life Festival is “Celebrating Our Ancestors,” and organizers are featuring Edward Willmot Blyden, a native-born Virgin Islander whose influence has helped shape education, government, diplomacy, national unity and race consciousness and awareness and whose ideas helped develop the concept of Negritude in the Caribbean and America.

Organizers hope to bring an awareness of his accomplishments through lectures and open discussions at Annaberg during the Folk Life Festival. Attorney and author Tregenza Roach and other prominent personalities will lead the discussions.

The 17th Annual Folk Life Festival, scheduled for February 21-23 at the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins on St. John is a program which preserves, strengthens and supports the Virgin Islands’ diverse culture and is open and free to adults, students and physically challenged individuals. Senior citizens take an active part in the programs, as well as attending various activities.

Celebrating Blyden’s Ideology
Organizers will be celebrating all aspects of Blyden’s ideology using a variety of art forms. Kulku Mele is an African American Dance Ensemble which includes 12 members blending West African and West Indian ancestral tradition and African American creativity.

After each performance, the dance ensemble will be available to have open discussions on the techniques and traditions of the performances.

This will be a hands-on part of the program that will surely be appreciated, with the audience participating in drumming and dance, and traditional costumes of the dancers.

Local artisans will be invited to participate in the programs. These will include Avelino Samuel, wood turning; Gwendolyn Harley, doll making; Olivia Christian, bread-making demonstrations; Emlira Farrell, herbalist; Elaine Jacobs, local folklorist; Smalls and the Music Makers, musicians; Irvin Brown, emcee; Mario Benjamin, fisherman and net making; Clyde Dale, basket making; Alnando Kennings, joiner; Dr. Gilbert Sprauve, historian; Bridget Julius, arts and crafts; Yolanda Martin, arts and crafts; Elmo Rabsatt Sr., beekeeping; and Theresa Brown, traditional cooking.

Last year 700 schoolchildren from the St. Thomas/St. John school district attended the two day festival. The total attendance was more than 2,000.

Organizers are asking for financial support from the V.I. Council on the Arts. This is a unique opportunity to reach a large audience and make them aware of their ancestral heritage. Monies received will be used for performance fees, transportation and artisans and other administrative costs.