It might sometimes seem as if even the most diverse regions of Europe have very similar cultures, at least judging by what people see at an event like Folklorama. However, the Portuguese and Slovenian pavilions, while depicting some common elements, showed some of the unique aspects of each culture in what the people chose to display during this year’s festival.
Many areas of Europe are known for their wines, and connoisseurs of the alcoholic beverage might know that Portugal is the oldest designated wine region on the continent. What many people might not know, however, is that the small country is known for many other things, including its famous teas, its cork, and much more.
The Portuguese Pavilion at Folklorama 2016 was a popular place, with almost every seat filled in the large gymnasium where the event was held. The food reflected the coastal location of the country, with shrimp and fish cakes on the menu, in addition to dumplings and other items.
As at other pavilions, dancing was a prominent feature on the program, with children as young as four years old in the Infantil group and older children and youth in the Lustitos and Juventude groups. Singing was also important; featured soloists included a singer named Henrique Cipriano from Toronto giving an animated rendition of a traditional folk song.
Despite the excellence of the performance, the cultural display was almost more interesting because of its insights into Portuguese history, culture, and economics. In addition to the sections on the geography and religion of Portugal, a display featured one of Portugal’s major exports, cork.
Most people see cork as a small stopper in a bottle, but it actually comes from the bark of certain trees found in abundance in Portugal. At the pavilion, visitors had a chance to learn about cork trees and the many uses that people have for the soft, porous bark.
Tea was also a feature of the cultural display. Although few people would likely associate Portugal with tea, the country is actually well known for that beverage, including a variety of Gorreana teas, which guests at the pavilion had the chance to sample.
The Slovenian pavilion, although similar to Portugal’s in many ways, showed many unique features. Although the program, like at the Portuguese pavilion, highlighted the importance of dance, it included some variations on the usual themes.
Stilts would seem to be out of place in a dance program, but not at the Slovenian pavilion in a dance depicting some of the summer activities that children enjoy. A wedding dance, an handkerchief dance, and singing were part of the program, as well as a figure covered in streamers which comes out at the beginning of every festival in the Slovenian culture.
The Portuguese and Slovenian pavilions had much in common, and even the differences could not disguise the importance of community and enjoyment of life in both cultures. Many people who attended this year’s shows will likely look for what the Slovenian and Portuguese communities have to offer at Folklorama 2017.