Northwest Folklife

Cultural Focus

2023 Lagom: Not too much. Not too little. Just right.

Northwest Folklife’s 2023 Cultural Focus, Lagom: Not too much, Not too little, Just right, is an exploration of our ability to find balance. Lagom, a Scandinavian term specific to Swedish culture, has a variety of translations: balance, in moderation, gentle, suitable, just the right amount. All of these words point to a very subjective sensibility. What may be moderate to one, might not be moderate to the other. What might seem just the right amount in city life, might be woefully inadequate in country livin’.

From this perspective, the term Lagom becomes much less something for one to achieve, and more of something that one must constantly seek, explore, and adapt to. It is at this crossroads that we lean into the idea of Lagom as a journey, an exploration that is shaped not just by the internal changes we make within ourselves, but also by the way in which we navigate with our community and our environment. We can give the best of ourselves to others and our communities when we give ourselves space to nurture and cultivate ourselves.

At Folklife, we’ve asked ourselves these questions as we step into this new post-pandemic junction. How do our actions affect ourselves? How do they affect our neighbors, or family, or colleagues? How do they affect the land that we live, work, and play on?

Last year’s Cultural Focus, Metamorphosis, asked that we accept the inevitability of change. We reminded ourselves that change happens all around us and that it is natural to adjust and reorient. We also reminded ourselves that healthy change embraces the old as well as the new. Change is how we evolve and survive. To embrace and lean into transitions and transformations gives us new perspectives and new solutions, which allow us to adapt to the world that lies ahead of us.

So how do we do our best work and carry out what we need to do to be accountable? How do we live a better version of ourselves, especially as we learn and "know better?" From Hawaiian culture, "kuleana" is loosely translated to "responsibility." As so often with language, this has many variations and nuances in meaning though it is often regarded as a privilege. Kuleana is given to those who demonstrate their readiness and worthiness to handle a responsibility. This is the kind of questioning, reflection, and deep listening that we can aspire to. As we ponder and question we should also be prepared to sit and listen to the answer, whether or not it’s an answer that we had expected or hoped for.

Therein is the journey of Lagom, expectation and openness, preparedness and flexibility, experience and humility. A journey that accepts that the tides will change. A journey where it is our responsibility to accept that change is truth. A journey where our readiness helps us to accept that there can be many truths. A journey where our truth is forever being turned, flooded over and exposed again by the tides.

Lagom surfaces the truth that everyone and everything’s balance is different. Unique experiences and evolving environments send us on diverging and crashing currents; deconstructing systems and empowering one another causes us to question the balance point again and again. . No person or community is a monolith, and our stories—past, present, and future—are a constant tinkering to find and sustain that balance.

This marks the beginning of the next leg of our journey—a wandering to find our stride in an evolving ecosystem that obliges us to find equilibrium, composure, and presence of mind. Striving for balance is a work in progress, not only for ourselves, but also in our relationship to others and the world around us. Balance is how we evolve and survive.

Previous Cultural Focus Programs

50 Years of Northwest Folklife
Living Legacies
Youth Rising
Echoes of Aztlán and Beyond: Mexican American and Chicana/o Roots in the Northwest
Festál Turns 20
The Power of the Human Voice through Song
Beats, Rhymes and Rhythms: Traditional Roots of Today’s Branches
2014 India and its People
2013 Washington Works
2012 The Next Fifty: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Seattle Center and Its Legacy
2011 Northwest Stories / Bulgarian Community Celebration
2010 Northwest Folklife is Community!
Thirteen groups that have become important to the Festival over the past 39 years (African American Gospel, All Ages, Bluegrass, Croatian, Filipino, FolkFloor Volunteers, Hungarian, Indian Dance, Jewish, New Old-Time, Northwest Folk Dancers, Inc., Ukrainian, Washington State Fiddle & Dance)
2009 The Centennial Celebration of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, 1909-2009
2008 Urban Indians
Native Americans Living off the Reservation
2007 Borderlands
An exploration of the communities that lie on either side of the International Boundary between Washington State and British Columbia
2006 Arab Communities of the Pacific Northwest
2005 Generation to Generation: Passing on our Traditions
Masters artists and apprentices from Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
2004 Traditions from the Horn of Africa
Communities from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti
2003 East Meets West: Maritime Culture of the Atlantic Northeast and the Pacific Northwest
2002 East Meets West: Forest and Woodlands Culture of the Atlantic Northeast and the Pacific Northwest
2001 Han Madang: Korean American Communities of the Pacific Northwest
2000 Carnival Arts of the Caribbean