Guinean dancer Sidiki Conde walks on his hands as a result of a childhood accident, but that doesn’t stop him from performing traditional dance, and drumming, dedicated to his mother, and motherland. This weekend he and Sheila Kay Adams, a banjo playing balladeer from North Carolina entertained at Cinema Village, following the premiere of Alan Govenar’s new filmExtraordinary Ordinary People. A smorgasbord of unique artists making exceptional art, the film focuses on winners of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Heritage Award, endangered in our anti-arts political climate along with the NEA itself. This exuberant film makes each art sampled, from oud playing to basket weaving to bobbin lace making, feel indispensible.
Inclusion becomes an important theme: as anti-immigrant sentiment rises in certain quarters, director Alan Govenar makes the case for the profound contribution to American culture brought by remarkable native traditions from artists who found refuge here. Flory Jagoda, who escaped the Nazis by playing the accordion on a train, leaving behind her family in Czechoslovakia, speaks about the healing power of song. Chum Ngek, who with his young pregnant wife fled the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia, may be the only American who knows all the instruments of his homeland. These are a reminder that our melting pot is composed of distinct colors. Preservation of world heritage is key. And that includes our American musical roots, represented by such artists as B. B. King, Mavis Staples, Koko Taylor, John Lee Hooker, and Clifton Chenier.Extraordinary Ordinary People is a celebration of art, survival, and the riches of human experience.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central