Kenyan Culture at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2014

Khanga

IMG_0468Khanga, also known as leso, is a rectangular piece of cotton fabric in bright colors and bold designs used throughout Africa. It originated on the east African coast in the mid-1800s, and was brought to Kenya from India in 1848. Originally made by sewing six Portuguese handkerchiefs together, it is now bought in pairs of two large cloths. This multiuse fabric is worn by women as a skirt and top set, as well as used as a headdress, ground cover, and baby transport among other things. A unique aspect of this cloth is that it has a message (riddle, proverb), usually written in Swahili, at the bottom of the inner section.

 

Isukuti

isukuti musiciansIsukuti (“It is good”) is a music and dance performed by the Luhya people of western Kenya at weddings, harvests, funerals, and other special occasions. Three drums are used—isukuti (father), shididi (mother), and mutiti (children) —which are made out of lizard skin, goatskin, or sheepskin. Along with the drums, there is also a large horn and cymbals or a gong.

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Salento/Central Colombia

Landscape view of central ColombiaThe Zona Cafetero is Colombia’s lush coffee-producing region in the center of the country. Salento is a small town in the area with a laid-back hippie vibe and a food and crafts fair on the main plaza on the weekends. Nearby is the Parque Nacional del Café, where you can learn about all things coffee—what it looks like, the history of its production, and how it’s made.

Photos of Central Colombia

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Guatapé

Exterior of house with colorful window and border in GuatapéThis little town 26 miles east of Medellín is known for its giant 656-foot-high granite rock, Piedra del Peñol, 2 miles away, that draws rock climbers to the area. But, the town for me was the real reason to come—with some of the most colorful, artistic buildings I’ve seen anywhere in Colombia, or perhaps anywhere.

Photos of Guatapé

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Santa Fe de Antioquia

suspension bridgeAlthough only 50 miles north-west of Medellín, this colonial town is a big temperature change—much warmer than the city. It is known for its Puente Colgante de Occidente, the suspension bridge built in 1887 over the Cauca River.

Photos of Santa Fe de Antioquia

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Medellín

Medellín City ViewColombia’s “City of Eternal Spring” in the north-central part of the country was once known as the “Murder Capital of the World” in the 1980s and 90s, but now is a safe, modern city with some interesting tourist sites. The main attractions are Plaza Botero, is an outdoor collection of artist Fernando Botero’s huge statues of fat people and animals, and the cable car lift for spectacular views of the city and outlying area. Medellín is also a great base for day trips to smaller colonial villages in the region.

Photos of Medellín

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Cartagena

Cartagena Clock TowerCartagena de Indias, the official name of Colombia’s colonial city on the Caribbean, is a world away from the larger cities of Bogotá and Medellín. The feel here is hot and tropical with a greater mix of ethnic groups and a large amount of tourists (cruises stop here on Caribbean routes). The walled city is the place to see with cobblestoned streets, horse-drawn carriages, and small shops and restaurants. Outside of the walled city, Bocagrande is Colombia’s answer to Miami Beach with larger hotels and the beach. Another highlight in Cartagena is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the stone fort built between 1536 and 1763 that protected Colombia from sea raiders.

Photos of Cartagena

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Catedral de Sal

Main Cross at Catedral de SalAbout 30 miles north of Bogotá is the Catedral de Sal (Salt Cathedral), an underground collection of chapels and 14 stations of the cross carved inside a salt mine with colored flood lights to enhance its beauty and magnificence. The most interesting way to get here is on the Bogotá Touristren, Colombia’s only remaining steam train, which makes the journey on weekends. Along with the scenic views are the onboard musicians playing traditional Colombian music.

Photos of the Catedral de Sal

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Bogotá

bogotastreetColombia’s capital, a sprawling city of around 8 million, is located in the central part of the country. It is by far Colombia’s largest city and South America’s 4th largest city. Plaza de Bolivar is the main square where you can find government buildings in various architectural styles from four centuries, frequent demonstrations and protests, and various llamas waiting to have their picture taken. La Candelaria (photo) is the city’s historic area with colorful houses, small restaurants, interesting museums, and steep hills. The highlight of Bogotá is the impressive Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) with thousands of gold objects from Colombia’s past.

Photos of Bogotá

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Global Glance: Lichtenstein

 

Capital Vaduz
Size/Population 61 sq. mi./36,281 (2011)
Land Mountains (completely within the Alps), completely land-locked
Politics Unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
Economy Business, finance, and tourism
Currency Swiss franc
Language German
Religion 78% Roman Catholic, 8% Protestant
Ethnic Groups Mostly Germanic
Interesting Facts Named for the Lichtenstein family dynasty, highest per capital GDP in the world, second-lowest (after Monaco) unemployment rate in the world, tax haven
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Global Glance: Azerbaijan

 

Capital Baku
Size/Population 33,436 sq. mi./9,165,000 (2011)
Land ½ mountains; ½ lowlands, rivers, and lakes
Politics Unitary presidential constitutional republic
Economy Oil, natural gas, agriculture, tourism
Currency Manat
Languages Azerbaijani
Religion 95% Muslim (85% Shia, 15% Sunni)
Ethnic Groups 92% Azerbaijani
Interesting Facts No official religion, but largest Shia muslim community outside of Iran
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