Skip to main content
Blog post main image
  • Folklife Friday: Jewish Yemeni Bread, Teju Cole’s Photographs, and More

    Folklife Friday is a weekly digest of arts and culture articles, podcasts, and videos from across the web. Read on for a selection of the week’s best cultural heritage pieces, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for a new set of weekly picks.

    Before Croissants, There Was Kubaneh, a Jewish Yemeni Delight
    For Tejal Rao, trying kubaneh for the first time was an unparalleled sensory delight. In this article, Rao traces the history of the Jewish Yemeni bread—a side traditionally prepared for Shabbat breakfast. “The bread was excellent, and in ways that resisted comparison—tall and tan and sweet as brioche, but softer inside, more supple,” Rao writes. When Kelly Jacques, manager at Manhattan’s Breads Bakery offered to teach him to prepare kubaneh, she did so with the following advice: “forget about perfection, and to keep smooshing the next lump of dough, and the next, rolling with any mistakes.”

    Teju Cole: ‘My Camera Is Like an Invisibility Cloak. It Makes Me More Free’
    In Blind Spot, a new book of photographs from Teju Cole, the Nigerian American writer pairs images and passages of prose to “protest against the relentless, deadening noise of populism and demagoguery.” Here Cole revisits select works, his struggles with depression, and his ever elusive identity. “The feeling I have sometimes of being lost in the world is more to do with my own personality than America,” Cole writes. For him, it’s just those challenges that individuals are called to confront. “This is a time for protest and activism for sure, but it is also a time for subtlety, ambiguity and complexity.” 

    5 African-German Women on Natural Hair and Cultural Appropriation
    “What does your hair mean to you?” It’s a question Naomie Chokoago poses in this spotlight feature for Vice i-D. In her interviews with five women on the streets of Berlin, Chokoago arrives at the identity and ritual bound up in popular, and often appropriated, hairstyles. “If I let you in on my culture and my mom does your hair or you come over to have dinner with us, that’s totally okay,” fashion student Sharonda Osei-Agyemang explains. “But if you just pick something from my culture only because it's cool right now, without ever really looking into it, that’s a problem.”

    Guest DJ Ozomatli Covers Mexican Classics with a Reggae Groove
    In their latest album, Non-Stop: Mexico>Jamaica, Los Angeles-based Ozomatli presents “classic songs from Mexico re-imagined through Jamaican reggae, rocksteady and dancehall.” Here NPR’s Felix Contreras interviews the band about their rich and robust sound, “starting with the music that is the Chicano soundtrack of SoCal and running it through influences from all over the world.” Pair this with The Eternal Getdown, the latest Smithsonian Folkways album from GRAMMY Award-winning Chicano band Quetzal.

    From Cuba, a Stolen Myth
    In NKame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón, El Museo del Barrio in Manhattan brings together a rich body of work befitting the enigmatic printmaker. Ayón, as Holland Cotter writes in this New York Times review, infused her work with Afro-Cuban religious themes—narratives that allowed her the freedom to reimagine established oral traditions in two-dimensional imagery. Her work, as Cotter explains, creates a “complete visual drama, one with social and intellectual dimensions, a moral allegory about power and control, set in a male world, but with a woman taking the central role.”

    Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough and to Michael Atwood Mason for their contributions to this week’s digest.

  • Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Cultural Vitality Program, educational outreach, and more.