Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Long Branch Library takes a trip to Ethiopia - Gazette

Long Branch facility's celebration of African nation kicks off a year-long look at world cultures

by Jeremy Arias | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

Visitors to the Long Branch Library will have the unique opportunity to take a trip around the world this year, all without having to leave the library. Ethiopia will be the first stop in the library's world culture festival, which plans to explore the traditions of seven international cultures.

The event kicks off 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday with a showcase of Ethiopian food, music and culture in a festival inspired by past library cultural celebrations, according to librarian Sue Unger, who organized the event.

"We had this idea blossom from something last year when we had some people come from Ghana and they helped everyone explore West African culture and traditions. … We were just overwhelmed!" Unger said. "I thought about that and I said, well, we can do that for all of our cultures."

Long Branch Library, located at 8800 Garland Ave. in Silver Spring, obtained a grant from the Friends of the Library foundation to host a multipart celebration of world culture.

Unger expects the kick-off festival to be a success, and hopes the food donated by the Langano Ethiopian Restaurant in Silver Spring will help draw the crowd. Yohannis Yibass, a manager at Langano, says the restaurant is no stranger to community involvement.

"We owe it to the community, we have a large community in this area; the Wheaton area, Silver Spring, Takoma Park … so we reach out to the community." Yibass said. "We believe in the beauty of the diversity of the area."

Yibass, who is originally from Ethiopia, has lived in the area with his family since 1971. He says that by introducing attendees to the food of his home country, important aspects of Ethiopian culture become evident, such as the strong community and social practice of the coffee ceremony.

"The coffee ceremony brings together the people to talk, create connections," Yibass said, "like a reach out. This is what we want to show to the community; the historical and cultural background that people experience in Ethiopia through food and coffee."

Yibass is also representing a visiting traditional Ethiopian music and instrumental group who will perform at the event. The six-person group performs regularly at Langano on Thursday nights and will add to the celebration's atmosphere.

The library will celebrate Hispanic heritage Oct. 4 as the second event in the world culture series with performances by the South American group Cantare. Native American storyteller Joseph Stands With Many will perform for the third installment Nov. 8, Unger said.

Each of the series' events will seek to coincide with a different cultural heritage date. The Ethiopian New Year is celebrated Sept. 11. Other events will highlight the Caribbean highlands and African dance traditions, among others, Unger said.

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