Maria's Adventures in DC: A Day on the National Mall

In DC there is never a shortage of things to do. On July 2, 2016 a friend and I spent the day on the National Mall. First we visited the National Museum of the American Indian to attend a screening of the film Kumu Hina. The film depicts a period in the life of Hina, an indigenous Hawaiian “māhū” or transgender woman. In the film, viewers do not encounter characteristic pristine beaches often associated with western tourism. Instead, we encounter the lives of Pacific Islanders struggling to keep native traditions alive, which Hina does as a schoolteacher. Throughout the film, it becomes clear that Hina’s commitment to living her life as an openly transgender women is intimately tied to cultural imperatives to resist the colonial gender binary and hold onto native traditions. Hina surprised everyone in the audience when she gloriously emerged from the back row of the seating area at the end of the film and joined the producer on stage for Q & A.

Feeling inspired after the screening, we headed to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival for some much needed levity. In the section entitled “Sounds of California,” we witnessed a dance by Mixteco (indigenous Oaxacan) performers. The dancers dress up in colorful “diablo’ masks and skin hide pants and danced while cracking their whips to music played by a band. To my surprise when I called my mom later that day and told her about the “danza de los diablos” she told me similar folk festivities happen in the Northeastern region of Portugal where my mom spent her childhood. In the Portuguese primeval village of Podence, villagers similarly perform as “Caretos” and dress in grotesque masks and colorful full-body costumes with bells and parade round the village to ward off evil spirits. The Folklife Festival will continue on the National Mall until July 10, 2016.

To end a great day we spent some time in the Hirshhorn Museum sculpture garden where we visited Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington DC (2007), a living tree in which visitors write down their wishes on small pieces of paper and tie them to the tree. We carefully read over other people’s wishes before adding our own. The tree features a range of wishes from the ubiquitous “I wish for world peace” to others obviously meant to be funny like “I wish for my own dog park.” Yoko Ono was a founding member of the influential 1960s performance art group Fluxus, and has since created a range of influential works that emphasizes audience participation and spiritual meditation. 

The NAPAAL internship is a funded internship that provides a career-building experience for a UMass Amherst or Five College student interested in a career in arts management or arts policy. The internship was made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Women for UMass Amherst Fund, the UMass Department of History of Art and Architecture's Ann Mochon's Summer Internship Award, and the Thomas F. Parker Arts Fund for Student Initiatives.