Southern Agenda

More Than Meets the Ear

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 25–May 5) encompasses rock, blues, zydeco, and, of course, jazz, but there’s more than music to sing about. In the Louisiana Folklife Village, tradition-bearers demonstrate a wide spectrum of craftsmanship, including blacksmithing, quilting, float fashioning, and shrimp-net knitting. Janie Verret Luster has been weaving palmetto half-hitch baskets at the event since 1993; she rescued a technique that had been lost to her tribe, the United Houma Nation, and is passing it along, just as her ancestors did. “We were in Louisiana before many others, and we imparted knowledge, teaching newcomers to survive,” she says. “Now, all of us in the folklife tents love to share our cultures.” The sounds of creative camaraderie also strike a chord with Rachel Ornelas, the festival’s cultural heritage manager. “The fifth-generation plasterer is asking questions of the boatbuilder who’s talking to the stained-glass guy,” she says. “They’re swapping skills and stories, and they’re a real hoot, making the village the festival’s most magical spot.”