Screen Printing with American Public at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington, DC


Dimen singers and artisans performed at and showcased their craft at the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. The public seemed to be eager to communicate with the exotically dressed artisans them but lacked a common language.

Marie Lee set up a screen-printing station where the public could print Dimen motifs on handmade mulberry paper from the village. The artisans soon took Lee’s place, and speaking their melodious Kam language and using simple gestures, enchanted hundreds of visitors with their art. Doing an activity together transcended language and broke cultural barriers between the participants and artisans.

Through this experience, the artisans quickly transformed from students to teachers and bearers of their own heritage. They were quite taken by the overwhelmingly positive response by the American public to what many in their village consider irrelevant and of no value. At the end, they were so proud of their ancestry that they printed the motifs on their clothes and musical instruments.

While the public carried away an extraordinary experience and a piece of foreign culture in a form of a handmade book mark, the Dimen artisans took home an awareness of how precious their heritage is and what impact they can have through sharing it with others.