Celebrate the 2022 NEA National Heritage Fellows in a Documentary Film

Washington, DC— The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts, is pleased to present the film Roots of American Culture: A Cross-Country Visit with Living Treasures of the Folk and Traditional Arts, premiering on arts.gov/heritage on Thursday, November 17th at 8:00pm ET.  Hosted by NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, the film will explore the lives and work of the 2022 NEA National Heritage Fellows, recipients of the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

“Join me on a special journey of discovery as Roots of American Culture takes us into the lives of ten highly-accomplished individuals and highlights their most treasured traditions and artistic practices,” said NEA Chair Jackson. “The work of these fellows enriches our nation, allows us to learn from the past, gives us hope for an ever more inclusive tomorrow, and helps us all live artful lives.”

Watch a 1-minute trailer for the film.

This film will take viewers around the nation, highlighting the artistry and diversity of cultural traditions in America:

  • Be inspired by the life and career of Michael Cleveland of Charlestown, Indiana, as he shares his musical journey from an early age when the sounds and rhythms of bluegrass became part of his life. His talent and passion for bluegrass continue to thrill audiences through the music of his Grammy Award-winning band, Michael Cleveland and the Flamekeeper.
  • Join Eva Enciñias on the dance floor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as she demonstrates flamenco, a tradition that has been carried through her family for generations. Enciñias, who has been teaching flamenco since the age of 14, has passed down her knowledge to her children, grandchildren, and others as a teacher and founder of the National Institute of Flamenco.
  • Parade the streets of Mobile, Alabama, with the Excelsior Band, a Black brass marching band that embodies Mobile’s culture. Originally organized as a band in 1883, Excelsior serves as the city’s official band, playing carnival ball, parties, weddings, jazz funerals, and leading Mobile’s Mardi Gras parades.
  • Move to the official music of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the quelbe songs that Stanley Jacobs and his band, Stanley and Ten Sleepless Knights, play through the streets of St. Croix as the traditional sounds of the squash (gourd rasp), steel (triangle), flute, banjo uke, and more are embraced by the next generation.
  • Listen to the soulful sounds of Richmond, Virginia’s “First Family of Gospel” as The Legendary Ingramettes reminisce about their more than six decades of bringing love and light to their community through their good works, service, and song.
  • Meet TahNibaa Naataanii and learn how the practice of weaving lives on in the Chuska Mountains, Navajo Nation, where Naataanii ranches the heritage Navajo Churro sheep, cards the wool, and weaves on traditional looms. 

 Naataanii is the 2022 recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship, presented in recognition of an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.

  • Travel to the islands of Hawaiʻi where Francis P. Sinenci engages his community through his knowledge and commitment to the traditional architectural practice known as hale.
  • Learn about Tsering Wangmo Satho’s story of how the music and dance of Tibetan opera educates younger audiences while refreshing the memory of the elders. From her home in Richmond, California, Wangmo Satho talks about how song and music have the power to heal and to bring people together with hope.
  • Connect with C. Brian Williams and learn how tradition and culture are passed down through stepping. As the founder of Step Afrika! in Washington, DC, Williams has taken this celebratory, percussive art form to stages across the country and throughout the world to educate young people on the value of teamwork and community through the distinctive art of stepping.
  • View the intricate and colorful Black Masking suits created by Shaka Zulu in New Orleans, Louisiana. The traditions, true to the area’s Indigenous and African heritage, are shared and celebrated through music and dance as a way of life.

Roots of American Culture will include closed captions and audio description. The film will be available to view on demand following the premiere at arts.gov/heritage.

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