Northwest Folklife

2014 Cultural Focus: India and Its People

In honor of Northwest Folklife’s tradition to celebrate one of the many cultures that make up the greater Pacific Northwest through dedicated programming at the organization’s signature festival event each May, Northwest Folklife will showcase a history of east Indian traditions, styles and identities across six different stages.

“Folklife works with over 100 communities each Festival,” lead programmer Kelli Faryar explains. “Most of our community showcases are framed in a 2-3 hour window which is only a glimpse into who and what these particular communities thrive on and the traditions that they are passing along. Our Cultural Focus allows us to further engage a community and showcase who they are not just at the Festival, but throughout the year and with a much greater platform.”

In early 2014, Northwest Folklife was honored to receive a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant for their work to promote and showcase the expansive Cultural Focus: India and its Peopleprogramming that will be presented at the 2014 Festival. Northwest Folklife’s ability to showcase this significant regional culture is greatly enhanced by this important funding.

Chamma Chamma in the Colors & Colors showcase
Produced in partnership with the India Association of Western Washington (IAWW)

Join us May 23-26 at the Festival to learn more about the Indian community of the Northwest through panels and discussions, films, dance and music presentations, visual arts and even a chance to learn how to dance Bollywood!

The 2014 Northwest Folklife Festival celebrates India, its ancient history, unique heritage steeped in traditional arts, and its people, many of which have traveled from the country of their origin to various parts of the world taking with them the message of their culture. Today, some of those travelers call the Pacific Northwest home, and others originate here thanks to earlier generations that immigrated in the early 1900s in search of higher education, better jobs or to merely explore. They found opportunities and eagerly contributed their best to the development of Washington State. They became the engineers, the educators, the healthcare professionals, and simply your everyday citizen.

Over the years, Seattle became synonymous with Boeing, and Redmond with Microsoft; through these economic changes, the Indian community grew. As they raised their sons and daughters in the Northwest, the Indian immigrants also formed new friendships, shared their varied experiences, enriching local communities with their unique culinary, artistic, eastern healing sciences and other distinctive cultural traditions. They opened restaurants, small businesses, volunteered at various organizations and participated with enthusiasm in Folklife and other local arts and heritage festivals.

Since 2002, the Northwest has seen an exponential rise in the number of skilled workers immigrating from India. The 1900s saw the Indian immigrants creatively connecting their families to their roots. Families would gather in rented community center rooms to celebrate festivals and teach children about their heritage. Crossing the border to Vancouver, BC, Canada was a much-anticipated trip where one could meander down Main Street’s Indian stores selling the latest Indian fashions and mouthwatering savories and sweets.

The 2000s brought an influx of technology workers as well as a boom in Indian restaurants and stores selling groceries. Fast food cafes or dhabas selling basic meals and delicacies have become popular among the tech crowd working long hours. Stores selling fresh flowers like the fragrant jasmine and dough for the Indian crepe ‘dosa’ provide comfort and ease to the lives of these busy individuals.

The India Association of Western Washington (IAWW) provides a common identity to the Indian community and facilitates cultural, social and educational services, and opportunitiesfor cultural integration from young to old of the community; as well as to foster those activities that enhance mutual understanding and appreciation between the Indo-American community and mainstream American community. IAWW offers subsidized lunches to the seniors in the community once a month at the Redmond Senior Center. They also run a popular and eagerly anticipated five day summer camp “Camp Bharat” for children of Indian roots.