In Alabama Folk, we go deep with artists and makers who carry on traditions passed down through the generations. Through their lives, we discover the many histories, cultures, communities, and landscapes that make us Alabama folk. Produced by the Alabama Folklife Association (alabamafolklife.org).
Paintin’ Mama’s Stories: Art from Life in Alabama’s Black Belt
Jessie LaVon’s rural life includes seed saving, canning, and fishing, but also honky tonks, snake ceremonies, and spring tonic. Her mother championed Jessie’s artistic impulse from the first, making paints from muds and berries and stiffening canvases by boiling rabbit bones. These memories and practices, alongside a reverence for the natural world, continue to inform and infuse Jessie’s life and art.
It Had a Shine to It: Making Cypress Shingles in Clarke County
Roy Marks was raised in a timber culture stretching back generations that endowed him with an expansive knowledge of trees and the properties and uses of their wood, from shingles to bee boxes to mallets and froes. He details his appreciation for makers of the past and his concern for the future of the woods, transformed in his lifetime from communal hunting ground to clear cut earth.
Pupusas: A Taste of El Salvador in Northeast Alabama
Flor Juares arrived in the US with years of experience preparing the foods of her native El Salvador, especially pupusas: the iconic national dish. Flor details a lifelong fascination with rural folkways and empowerment by the women around her. After decades of making pupusas for family and friends, she now shares them with hundreds at the annual Latino Festival in Rainsville.
Get a Little Sunshine in There: Pine Needle Basket Making
Della Marsh stumbled into pine needle basketry as a way to use the gorgeous pine needles she encountered in Lillian, Alabama. A lifelong artist and maker, Della describes how basket making bestowed an artistic experience different than other mediums, and how she transformed this age-old tradition with color and charms, then moved beyond baskets completely.
This Is Who We Are: MOWA Choctaw Storytelling
For 41 years, Laretta Weaver led MOWA Choctaw cultural education in Mobile and Washington County schools. Through storytelling, Choctaw language, beading, weaving, basket making, dancing, drumming, and pow wows, Laretta imparted cultural knowledge and pride in generations of local youth, which rippled through their adult lives and into the fabric of the whole community.
There’s No Band Like It: The Excelsior Band of Mobile
Hosea London traces his journey from a musical childhood to the helm of the Excelsior: the signature band and symbol of Mobile Mardi Gras. In the band’s 140th year, Hosea reflects on balancing tradition and creativity, preserving order, character, and history, the connective power of music, and his most important role: growing the next generation of jazz musicians.
Love the stories
These are so well done. What a fun and interesting window into under the radar Alabama stories!