Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

It's US Independence Day weekend! There are few things I love more than a good BBQ followed by fireworks this time of year. Luckily, my friend Mia and I went to the Folk Life Festival on the National Mall, where in the middle of the African-American voices section, we were able to secure BBQ chicken wings, coleslaw, rice and beans, a refreshing Abita beer, and a huge serving of watermelon. Delicious!

At the Welsh clogs tent, we heard a very informative clogmaker and dancer, Trevor, tells us about the history of Welsh clogs in the Americas. Strangely enough, he pointed to South Carolina (where my hometown is!) as one of the only sources of direct written references to the European sycamore, the wood of which is used to make Welsh clogs. Trevor informed us that there is a record he has come across detailing that enslaved peoples working the rice paddies of the South were issued Welsh clogs as they were the only shoes capable of withstanding the damp environment. When I asked him how Welsh clogging is related to the clogging of Appalachian culture, he said that as Scottish, English, Irish, and Welsh populations immigrated to Appalachia, they brought their clogging styles with them. However, because the European sycamore was not readily available to make clogs, dancers began using more flexible footwear, and as a result, the dance itself evolved into something new. For excerpts of Welsh clogging and Appalachian clogging, visit here and here.

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