For 37 years, City Lore has been bringing folk and community-based artists from diverse cultural backgrounds to teach, share their art, and inspire young people in New York City public schools. The remarkable methods and magic they bring to the classroom often trace back to the ways they themselves learned to sing, dance, paint, drum, and more, when they were growing up in their communities. 

Parampara, the Sanskrit word for lineage, here refers to the modes of learning a craft passed on through oral tradition. This exhibit presents ways of teaching and learning in a variety of cultures and art forms from ten artists who learned their art informally, in family and community settings, or in mentor and apprentice relationships. The exhibit highlights seven modes of teaching and learning, drawing on the experiences of the featured artists. Each is expressed through the colored threads symbolizing the lines of transmission.

Guiding Hands: the master-apprentice or mentor-mentee relationship

In the Family: informal learning from family and community elders 

Peer-to-Peer: communal learning with friends and peers 

Osmosis: learning through context, observation, and listening

Forbidden Knowledge: learning secretly or through a personal quest 

In the Wings: deferred participation 

Mirroring: learning through imitation

As you go through the exhibit, notice the lines of transmission reflecting the distinct modes of learning for each artist. Some learned their art in extreme privacy or masked in mundane chores.  Others learned simply by watching or listening or imitating. Some experienced delayed participation and were “granted” inclusion in the tradition only after a certain period of time or practice. Others learned from their peers. Most were born into a cultural tradition, but some were drawn to and became immersed in the arts of another culture. 

All the featured artists are co-curators of this exhibit and worked with City Lore Education staff to create a space dedicated to their craft and learning. This practice draws inspiration from the South Indian tradition of Saraswati Puja, when artists offer the books, instruments, and tools of their trade to the goddess of art and learning, as a way to honor their art and their teachers and to share it with their community. Artists’ personal statements are embedded in the face of a vessel, a metaphor for “the receiver” of the art. 

As you journey between displays, we invite you to explore each artist’s tools, stories, and tributes to their teachers and to reflect on your own experiences of learning outside of institutional settings. What values are embedded in these transmission methods? What can we–as artists, as educators, as community and family members–learn from these modes of learning?  We invite viewers to consider the implications and applications of how these traditional learning methods for teaching the arts might be applied in institutional education settings, such as schools, as well as in our families and communities.

Opening Reception

On Thursday, May 25th, 2023, Parampara: Lines of Transmission in the Traditional Arts opened in the City Lore gallery.  The opening reception featured a performance of West African dancing and drumming by Sidiki Conde, one of the featured artists of the show and his student. 

Table of Contents

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Photographs by Deborah Ross

Amino Belyamani

Maâlem Hassan Ben Jaafer (left) Amino Belyamani (right)

Amino Belyamani Vessel and Objects
Featuring Qraqeb, Adodos, Traditional Berber Moroccan Rug and Pillow Case, Drumming Sticks, Cowrie Shell Necklace, and Chachiya (Gnawa hat).
Amino Belyamani and Maâlem Hassan Ben Jaafer performing for a public event, "Passing it On: Musicians & Dancers Perform and Discuss Mentorship"
Amino Belyamani performing for a public event, "Passing it On: Musicians & Dancers Perform and Discuss Mentorship"
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Aurelia Fernández

* “It isn’t really entertainment, but a cultural legacy from grandparents and parents to their children.”

Aurelia Fernández's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Catrinas (Mexican skeleton dolls), Sombrero Ofrenda, Nicho del Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead Shadow Box), Piñatas, assorted paper flowers, Disfraz del Día de los Muertos (Costume for Day of the Dead) and more.
Aurelia Fernández's Vessel and Objects
Aurelia Fernández's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Calaveras y Mano de Papel (Unfinished paper maché skulls and hand), Imán con tema del Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead magnet), Collar del Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead necklace), and Chef
Aurelia Fernández's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Catrinas (Mexican skeleton dolls), Sombrero Ofrenda, Nicho del Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead Shadow Box), Piñatas, and assorted paper flowers.
Disfraz del Día de los Muertos
Aurelia Fernández's costume created for her daughter to wear on Dia de los Muertos.
Gallery visitors engage with Aurelia Fernández's Vessel and Objects
Piñata making workshop for educators led by Aurelia Fernández and her daughter.
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Haifa Bint-Kadi

Haifa Bint-Kadi's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Mosaic Hamsa Hands, Hearth, photographs, a Journal, a Mosaic Self-Portrait by her daughter, Mosaic Tools - Leponitt, Hemmer, Trowel and Italian smalti used in traditional mosaic.
Haifa Bint-Kadi's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Mosaic Hamsa Hands, Hearth, and photographs.
Haifa Bint-Kadi's and Gallery visitors
Haifa Bint-Kadi's and Gallery visitors
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Hector Morales

Hector Morale's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Cajon Retablo Set: Behind Closed Doors made in collaboration by Hector Morales & Fred Ellman, drumming posters, and a Cymbal.
Close up of Cajon Retablo Set: Behind Closed Doors
Hector Morales and his father.
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Malini Srinivasan

Malini Srinivasan's Vessel and Objects
Featuring VHS & Audio Cassettes, inspirational photographs, Thaalam/Cymbals, Ankle bell, Thattu cazhi/striking stick and block, Castanets, Nataraja Statue, and Photographs of Sri C.V. Chandrasekhar and Malini Srinivasan.
Malini Srinivasan's Vessel and Objects
Close up of VHS & Audio Cassettes, inspirational photographs, Thaalam/Cymbals, Ankle bell, Thattu cazhi/striking stick and block, Castanets, Nataraja Statue.
Guests interact with Malini Srinivasan's Vessel
Malini Srinivasan performs for a public program.
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N'Ketiah Brakohiapa

*Sankofa is often associated with this proverb, which translates as: “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”

N'Ketiah Brakohiapa's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Sankofa Adinkra Symbol Stencil, Victory Fabric Adinkra Batik, Photos of Printmaking in Ghana, and Fabric with Traditional and Contemporary Designs.
N'Ketiah Brakohiapa's Vessel and Objects
Close up of Sankofa Adinkra Symbol Stencil, Victory Fabric Adinkra Batik, Photos of Printmaking in Ghana, and Fabric with Traditional and Contemporary Designs.
Photos of Printmaking in Ghana
“Photos of me (far left in first photo) and my relatives and friends in Ghana, who help print my fabric designs. Samples of my fabric designs are in the background.” - N'Ketiah Brakohiapa
Close up of Sankofa Adinkra Symbol
The symbol of Sankofa is one of universal connectivity regardless of color, class, or creed.
Guests engage with N'Ketiah Brakohiapa's Vessel and Objects
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Potri Ranka Manis

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Potri Ranka Manis's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Sarunay (“miniature kulintang”), Kris sword and coins in frame, Landap malong, Babandir gong, Ringka-Ringka chest, Apir (fan), Kubing (jaw harp), and excerpts from the film Live at Gotham by Margaret Guzman.
Potri Ranka Manis's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Sarunay (“miniature kulintang”), Kris sword and coins in frame, Landap malong, Babandir gong, Ringka-Ringka chest, Apir (fan), Kubing (jaw harp), and excerpts from the film Live at Gotham by Margaret Guzman.
Potri Ranka Manis and guest engage with Vessel and Objects
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Quraishi

Quraishi's Vessel and Objects
Featuring a Rubab and a video performance.
Rubab
Qaderi Family, courtesy of Quraishi 1960s, Kabul, Afghanistan Hand-carved mulberry wood, mother-of-pearl inlay, goat skin
Guests interact with Quraishi's Vessel
Guests interact with Quraishi's Vessel
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Rokafella

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Rokafella's Vessel and Objects
Featuring PR Flag & Graffiti Jean Jacket, Mom’s Pilón & Dad’s Guitar, Boom Box & Cassette Player, CDs/DVDs & Hats, Photographs
Rokafella and Kwikstep performing for a public event, "Passing it On: Musicians & Dancers Perform and Discuss Mentorship"
Guests engage with Rokafella's Vessel and Objects
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Sidiki Conde

Sidiki Conde's Vessel and Objects
Featuring Phtographs, the Saide Mask and a video (left)
Sidiki Conde Performing
Photograph by Tom Pich, 2007 National Heritage Fellows Concert Washington, D.C.
Sidiki Conde in his village Moncellia
Photograph Deborah Ross, 2005 Moncellia Village, Guinea
Sidiki Conde in his village Moncellia
Photograph Deborah Ross, 2005 Moncellia Village, Guinea
Guests engage with Sidiki Conde's Vessel and Objects
Guests engage with Sidiki Conde's Vessel and Objects
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Parampara Interactive Board

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Public Programs

Passing it On: Musicians & Dancers Perform and Discuss Mentorship

Thursday, August 17, 2023

How are music and dance cultures passed on through the oral tradition? How do mentorship relationships in the arts evolve over generations and geographies?

These are some of the questions taken up in Passing it On: Musicians & Dancers Perform and Discuss Mentorship. The event included live performances by and conversations with three artists featured in the exhibit: Gnawa musician Amino Belyamani and his teacher, Maalem Hassan Benjaafar; Hip Hop dancer and choreographer Rokafella and her mentor, Kwikstep; Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Malini Srinivasan and her student Devika Sen.

Performances were followed by a discussion and audience Q&A facilitated by City Lore’s Amanda Dargan.

Gallery Tour

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

On September 13th, Amanda Dargan and Sahar Muradi led a gallery tour of Parampara for visitors who were attending the 15th People’s Hall of Fame event in honor of Teaching Artists. They guided the audience through the different vessels and gave context about the seven lines of transmission identified in this exhibit. The exhibit was co-curated by City Lore’s Education department and the featured artists. 

Piñata Making Workshop

Saturday, September 16, 2023

City Lore Education staff and teaching artists gathered for the first Professional Development workshop in the City Lore Gallery. The day’s activities featured a tour of the Parampara exhibit, which features five of City Lore’s TAs. Afterward visual artist Aurelia Fernández, who specializes in the traditional paper arts of Mexico, lead everyone in co-creating a collective piñata to house our teaching and artistic intentions for the year. “The sweetness of the piñata” says Aurelia, “is about maintaining one’s culture and life.”

Credits

Curators: Raquel Almazan, Amanda Dargan, Sahar Muradi, Eva Pedriglieri, Malini Srinivasan

Exhibition Designers: Joan Raiselis, Fred Ellman

Logo and Poster Designer: Eva Pedriglieri

City Lore Gallery Director: Colleen Iverson

Project Advisors: Molly Garfinkel

Contributing Photographers: Ganesh Ramachandran/Purpleganesh, Deborah Ross

Video Editing: Eva Pedriglieri

Art Handlers: Jesus Roberto Miranda Baeza, Daniel Miranda

Photo Prints: CanvasHQ

Co-Sponsor: Center for Art, Tradition, and Culture Heritage (CATCH)

Funders: The National Endowment for the Arts, The Hearst Foundation, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor, and the New York State Legislature

Special Thanks: Amino Belyamani, Haifa Bint-Kadi, N’Ketiah Brakohiapa, Isaac Brown, Sidiki Conde, Michael Cotten, David Dean, Rick DePofi, Aurelia Fernández, Ana Rokafella Garcia, Guinea TV, Julia L. Gutiérrez-Rivera, Margaret Marie Guzman, Maâlem Hassan Ben Jaafer, Colleen Iverson, Hiroko Kazama, Potri Ranka Manis, Carlos Mateu, Hector Morales, New York Noise Studio, Óscar Cortés Palma, Ganesh Ramachandran, Es Rouya, Quraishi Roya, Deborah Ross, Malini Srinivasan, Wowo Souakoli, Dennie Palmer Wolf, Steve Zeitlin