SILVER SPRING — The smell of suya kebabs and phad thai filled the air last Sunday as dancers performed and artists showcased their wares at the Silver Spring World Heritage Festival.
The festival featured over 60 vendors, selling an array of artwork, clothes, woodworks and other goods. The art took inspiration from cultures around the world; many clothes featured designs influenced by traditional West African art.
Painter Sillie Mugo exhibited paintings from her series “Botanical Queens,” featuring portraits of black women with flowers instead of hair. The colorful flowers made her paints jump out with a great sense of vibrancy, which contrasted beautifully with the stoic look of the human figures themselves.
“I just think flowers are universal,” said Mugo. “They’re timeless; they’re classic. They’re never going to get old. All the different hairstyles will come and go, but florals are timeless.”
Anuradha Mehra sold handcrafted goods inspired by traditional Indian art – a mix of vibrant colorful handbags, necklaces, purses, toys and even flutes, all designed by Mehra and manufactured in New Delhi. Mehra used to work in manufacturing until she came to the United States in 2012; she now uses her connections with Indian artisans to manufacture goods.
“It’s a modern take on Indian handmade items,” said Mehra. “It’s using ancient motifs for a modern utility purpose.”
The dance performances were a highlight of the day, bringing a surge of energy to the event. Belly dancer Kaela Kotoski showcased American tribal-style belly dancing, a dance form that merges flamenco, Indian folklore dance, and Egyptian belly dance. The dance form is based on improvisation, and Kotoski places a heavy emphasis on crowd interaction, once going up to an audience member with a skateboard and asking him to “do a kick-flip.”
“You see it (Belly dancing) mostly at clubs and at weddings,” said Kotoski. “You’re always up close and personal with people.”
Other dance performers included the dance troupe 100% Salay USA, who perform salay – a traditional style of Bolivian line dancing, complete with traditional costumes. Japanese dance group Chino Daiko and Afro-Carribean dance group Gaelle Force also made appearances.
Several vendors served international food. One notable vendor, Aunty Iffy’s, specializes in Caribbean and West African food. The catering business has been cooking for about 30 years, according to family member Rome Ubamadu, who works for Iffy.
“Not only do I get to spend time with my favorite aunty and I have a special bond with her, but she’s a great cook, and I love her cooking,” said Ubamadu. “I didn’t even know she was in Vienna, Virginia, and I was in Washington, D.C. We were right by each other for 10 years, and I didn’t even realize it. So once I found out I dropped everything to be by her side.”