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.
Outside Language and Power: The Mastery of Arundhati Roy’s “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”
In her new novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy examines the labyrinthine, magical world of language in India. Taking as her subject “the vulnerable and the unseen of our world,” Roy clearly shows that “love is the only way for individuals to really meet across the borders of skin or country.” Where the novel excels, as Anita Felicelli explains here, is in its unflinching portrayal of helplessness—its “kaleidoscopic range, its rugged Rushdie-esque maximalism, its ripping open of the world to show us everything that is dazzlingly beautiful and brutally ugly about it.”
Reviving a Lost Community, One Loaf at a Time
“I can’t really sit in New York where everything is Jewishly comfortable when I know that in Ukraine things are difficult,” Aaron Levitz, founder of Brooklyn Bakery, explains in this video. Levitz, who opened a Jewish bakery in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, is striving to preserve a cultural legacy lost after the war. Here he speaks about the slow introduction of Jewish foods to his menu—a move he calls his own “Jewish revival” that starts with food. “Some people are scared to go to a synagogue or a prayer service, but they’ll come into a bakery and have something tasty to eat.”
Sónar 2017: 15 of the Best Sets from the Barcelona Music Festival
In this review of Barcelona’s Sónar music festival, Jon Pareles of the New York Times revisits this year’s best performances, among them Björk, Arca, and Juana Molina—sets as diverse as they are electric. “It’s a festival of the experimental and the crowd-pleasing, the subtle and the unsubtle, scaled from quiet small-auditorium performances to seismic stadium dance music.” Complement this the playlist Catalan Music from Smithsonian Folkways.
Google Maps Adds Indigenous Lands in Canada after Long Omission
Google last week announced that it added 3,000 parcels of land belonging to indigenous peoples in Canada to its Google Maps and Google Earth applications. The additions include First Nations reserve lands as well as treaty settlement lands of the more than 1.4 million people who identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit. “This marks an essential step in accurately reflecting Canada to Canadians and to the world,” wrote Tara Rush, a Google employee from Akwesasne territory. “The goal is to enhance cultural preservation, digital awareness and land management.”
The Reconquista of the American Plate
“There were many factors that contributed to Mexican-American cuisine re-conquering the U.S.: innovative food that proved popular, the success of Taco Bell, the frozen margarita machine…but fundamentally, Mexican-American cuisine is delicious,” claims James Beard Award-winning writer Bill Esparza. In this illustrated feature, he traces the history of Mexican American food, from East L.A. dishes to Tex-Mex favorites. “What Tex-Mex shares with northern Mexican cuisine is the application of simple recipes for cooking quality meats, lots of cheese, and some heat.”
Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough and to Michael Atwood Mason and David Walker for their contributions to this week’s digest.