New York Folklore Opens Inaugural Exhibit

New York Folklore Opens Inaugural Exhibit

New York Folklore opened its exhibition gallery with an exhibition of ebru paintings by Hatice Erbas-Sorkunlu. Hatice Erbas-Sorkunlu is an ebru artist originally from Turkey, currently living in Buffalo. Hatice studied the traditional Turkish tile art of çini at university, and during her studies became interested in ebru. Hatice learned to do ebru while living in Istanbul and later taught traditional Turkish arts to international students at Fasl-ı Bahar, an Islamic College. Hatice has been practicing ebru for 6 years. For this exhibition, Hatice is exhibiting ten framed pieces that illustrate different ebru techniques, with some incorporating Turkish paper cutting.

Erbas-Sorkunlu provided a hands-on ebru workshop for the public and she was in attendance for the exhibition’s opening reception. Her travel and her participatory workshop were made possible by a grant from the Schenectady Initiative Program. The exhibit will be on view through Labor Day 2019.

New York Folklore underwent extensive renovations and building upgrades to open its new exhibition gallery at the end of March. A grant from the William Gundry Broughton Charitable Foundation provided funds to conduct renovations that included floor repair, painting, carpet installation, and the addition of upgraded ambient and track lighting. As part of New York Folklore’s rebranding efforts, the upgrade also included a new sign for the building’s façade.

New York Local Artist Gears Up to Make an Animated Folktale Film

New York Local Artist Gears Up to Make an Animated Folktale Film

Rockland County native, Freia M. Titland, is no stranger to combining filmmaking and folklore. Her previous work (Ophelia and Magic and Shakespeare: a Representation of the Times) focuses both on the magical and ethereal and how those elements present themselves in Shakespeare’s work. Titland has also produced a handful of creative films and photographic projects (Woman of the Wood and A Mermaid’s Desire) that focus on the re-imagining of the Tarot World Wheel. Her latest project, however, brings her closer to her Norwegian roots as she explores the intricate world of Norse mythology through the eyes of a child.

Asta’s Journey is a 2D animated film that tells the story of a young girl on the eve of her 9th birthday. Asta wishes for two things in honor of her birthday: to see her mother who has passed away, and to go on an adventure so she can encounter the creatures that she likes to read about in her fairytale books. Asta gets a bit more than what she wishes for as she embarks on an adventure through a magical and dangerous forest in order to help a new friend. The forest is riddled with creatures from Norse mythology and Asta must outsmart them, outrun them, be brave, and have faith.

Asta’s Journey is fiscally sponsored by the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP). There you can learn more about the movie and see a glimpse of the animation to come. Freia Titland and team will be releasing their crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark in May. In order to stay up to date with Asta you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

My Mentorship with Eric Charry about Jola Bougarabou Drumming

My Mentorship with Eric Charry about Jola Bougarabou Drumming

Within five minutes of his arrival on April 6, 2018, my mentor, Professor Eric Charry of Wesleyan University, taught me something I did not know about interviewing musicians. Pulling up a photo of Nfamara Badjie playing bougarabou, Eric immediately notices that drum bodies are the traditional bougarabou shape, but the drum heads are not bougarabou. They are djembe, relating to the way in which the drums are tuned. Bougarabou drums are traditionally tuned by heating (putting the drums close to a fire), while the djembe is tuned with a hammer, a more viable system in the United States. I now know to ask how an instrument changes as it moves from one country to another and over time.

The difference in drums led to a discussion of the notion of ethnicity tied to a particular instrument. Is the essence of bougarabou and Jola the instrument or the rhythms and songs associated with it? Or a combination? At what point does the instrument change enough to not be bougarabou? Who gets to decide? Eric and Nfamara helped me to place the tradition of bougarabou within the Jola and within the various tribal cultures found in Gambia and Senegal. We also discussed the lineage of bougarabou musicians of which Nfamara is one of the last. Nfamara told us that some Jola believe that he is killing the culture because he is in the United States and not in the Gambia sharing and teaching the bougarabou.

Eric reminded me that I need to apply these same questions about changes in instrument or materials, across the genres and not just in music.

For information about applying for the Mentoring and Professional Development Program in Folk and Traditional Arts, please contact me at elevy@nyfolklore.org to discuss an application.

Roque Playing in Angelica, NY

Roque Playing in Angelica, NY

Roque, an American derivative of croquet, is believed to only be played in a few small towns nationwide. A manicured, well-lit clay court sits in the middle of Angelica in Allegany County, just across from the home of Jim Gallman. On summer evenings, he can watch games unfold from his porch.

The National Roque Association last published its rules in the 1950s, so the game’s complicated rules and their local adaptations are best-known by the oldest generation of players. Although he did not compete in Angelica’s annual tournament in 2016, when fieldworker Hannah Davis documented the game, Gallman had a front-row seat as an unofficial official.

Gallman proudly claims to be the Angelica’s winningest player. His brothers are in close competition, and their adult sons – who compete despite having moved away – aren’t far behind. Like other regular players, some even make their own mallets, which are shorter than croquet mallets and difficult to buy from commercial sources.

Gallman’s female family members are noticeably absent from the tournament. Roque has always been a gendered game here. Women may play casually with friends and family, Gallman explains, but they have never played as often as men. He suggests that less time spent on the court has resulted in a less competitive approach to the game. Anyone is welcome to watch, though. Visitors can see the tournament for themselves during the 50th Annual Angelica Heritage Days Festival on August 3 and 4. More information is available at www.visitangelica.com.

New Staff for the New Year

New Staff for the New Year

As New York Folklore embarks on new projects and programs in 2019, I am pleased to welcome two new additions to our staff. Kira Born is not new to our organization, as she (along with Chibuikem Ajulu-Okeke) designed and wrote our new website. However, Kira is transitioning in 2019 from “intern” to marketing coordinator, continuing to work with New York Folklore to bring her expertise in graphic design, digital photography and video, and media production to help New York Folklore better tell its story. Kira is a graduate of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, where she majored in Communication and Information Design.

Elinor Levy also joins our staff in 2019 as New York Folklore’s New York regional coordinator for the Mentoring and Professional Development program, a partnership program with the Folk Arts Program of the New York State Council on the Arts. Elinor will assist New York Folklore in publicizing the Mentoring and Professional Development Program in the lower Hudson Valley and New York Metropolitan regions, and will be the point of contact for potential mentoring applicants in these regions. Elinor is the Folk Arts Program Manager for Arts Mid-Hudson in Poughkeepsie. She has worked as a folklorist in many locations throughout the United States, including New Jersey and Las Vegas, Nevada. She holds a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

As we are a statewide organization, we strive to be present in communities throughout the state. We hope to see YOU in this coming year!

Stable Views

Stable Views

My introduction to the racetrack and its world of racing began in 1996, as I was asked by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, New York, to conduct an ethnographic study of the “backstretch”. I received an Archie Green Fellowship in Occupational Folklore from the Folklife Center of the Library of Congress in 2012, which allowed me to expand my research beyond New York State to include racetracks and stables in Kentucky, Florida, and Louisiana. The entire project resulted in a traveling exhibition and a book published by the University Press of Mississippi, Stable Views: Stories and Voices from the Thoroughbred Racetrack (2015).

The thoroughbred racetrack serves as a centerpiece of a unique world of work, with specialized roles and tasks, specific language and vocabulary, rituals, and a shared knowledge and history among the people who make the race meets occur. Those who work at the racetrack in its various roles make up a distinctive occupational folk group.

For my research, I sought to interview individuals in as many different occupational roles as possible, and to especially seek out individuals who had long time family involvement in thoroughbred horseracing. I interviewed those who worked directly with the horses, especially those who were part of small stables of fewer than twenty horses. A trend towards the involvement of entire families in racetrack professions permeates the entire racing world. As an Archie Green Fellow, I encountered many instances of spouses, children, and other members of a worker’s extended family working within the backstretch or in allied occupations. Such is the case with farrier Ray Amato and his family:

“I’m just shy of 80 years old and I’m still working which is very odd in this business…
After I learned and got on my own and got going and established pretty good in the industry,
my dad taught my brother Tony
Then I taught my brother Paddy.
Then I taught my son, Ray, Jr.
And I taught by nephew Chris.
And they’re all doing good too. Good horseshoers… Only in the thoroughbred industry and they turned out to be good horseshoers.” 1

-Ray Amato

Sources Cited:
McHale, Ellen. 2015. Stable Views: Stories and Voices from the Thoroughbred Racetrack.
Jackson: University Press of Mississippi

Interview with Ray Amato, Florida, 2012.