Leimert Park Invites You to Participate in Preparations for the Festival of Ancestors

Mask festival procession in honor of the ancestors in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Mask festival procession in honor of the ancestors in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

For those of you following our community coverage, “gentrification” is definitely the buzzword of the moment around these parts, it seems.

It should be no surprise — I’d hardly expect Boyle Heights or Leimert Park, two of L.A.’s more historic and vocal communities, to not speak up about the changes their neighborhoods are experiencing.

But, this piece is not about gentrification, per se. I’m going to let KCET be the one to cover that this week (they’ll be airing a look at how Leimert Park is weathering the spectre of gentrification in tomorrow night).

Instead, this is an invitation Angelenos to participate in an ongoing series of workshops in Leimert Park that might help them see why carving out space for cultural communities is so important to so many.

Every June, in conjunction with the anniversary of the founding of the art walk, Leimert plays host to a day-long celebration of masks, processions, dance, and art in honor of their ancestors.

In the weeks leading up to it, they hold free mask-making and other workshops every Saturday from 2 – 4 p.m. at the KAOS Network. The goal is to help community members and those interested in learning about the area connect with the traditions of the African Diaspora.

This year, the 4th Annual Day of Ancestors: Festival of Masks will kick off around noon on June 29th with a procession. Drummers will lead dancers wearing traditional masks and dress around the village and back to the park, where the dancing and drumming will continue all afternoon.

Dance! Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Dance! Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

This year, the festival is looking to incorporate Tambú, a once-controversial dance form and musical genre from Curaçao, into both the workshops leading up to the festival and performances on the day of the festival itself.

Tambú originated with slaves brought to the Caribbean. As it brought the slaves together, it was thought to be both subversive (and overly sexually suggestive) by the Catholic Church, who worked to suppress it for many years.

In honor of that history, the festival is themed “The Secret Music of the Middle Passage” this year, and will feature performances from KiT Tradishonal, a Tambú group from Curaçao.

And, while Leimert Park itself focuses on its African heritage, the festival is quite inclusive all are welcome. Past processions have included wonderful papier mâché of Korean and other origins.

Tree person needs more space.

Tree person needs more space. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

So, all are welcome to attend the mask-making workshops and performances.

Stop by one of their workshops at the KAOS Network, located at the corner of 43rd Pl. and Leimert Blvd., held Saturdays from 2-4 p.m. Attend one of the drumming, writing, or other ongoing workshops in the area, the calendars for which can be found here or here. Learn more about the efforts of LA Commons — an arts non-profit that promotes cultural exchanges and community-driven public art projects — to support the ancestor festival and bring KiT Tradishonal to L.A. here. Or, just join Leimert Park for the festival on June 29th, from 12 – 8 p.m.