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3 newcomers featured at World on the Square festival

Penny Sisto of Floyds Knobs is a renowned textile artist who was born in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland. Her 36 stunning quilt portraits of immigrants were highlighted in Sunday’s Louisville Courier-Journal and are on display at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany through mid-September.
Anthony Redfeather Nava is a Pascua Yaqui Indian from Arizona who now lives in New Albany. He is an extremely talented singer, recording artist, dancer, drummer, flute maker-player and educator who specializes in American Indian cultures. He and his wife, Shannon, a Creek-Choctaw Hoosier who is 1/16th Irish, spend all of their time educating people in Southern Indiana and Kentucky about misconceptions and stereotypes that have held sway in Western Civilization since Columbus ‘discovered’ Americans who had been living here for thousands of years.
Pancho Garcia is a native of Nogales, Mexico. He is a retired electrical engineer who earned his degree at the Speed Scientific School at the University of Louisville and now lives between Lanesville and Corydon.
These three people have one big thing in common: all will be at the eighth annual World on the Square festival in Corydon on Saturday, Aug. 11, from 4 to 8 p.m. The free event is being organized again this year by the nonprofit group Community Unity with plenty of support from various organizations, local businesses and individuals. Garcia is the event chair.
There will be more than 31 exhibitors, spirited ethnic entertainment, free samples of food from all over the world, ‘passports’ for children to have signed at various booths for prizes, games and demonstrations for children.
Sisto, 65, will bring one of her many quilts to the festival. She says on her Web site that she has little or no formal education. ‘ … my granny taught me to sew and read by the soft light of a kerosene lantern at the age of three. The nuns taught me to embroider, and the Masaai taught me to crochet, and to revel in color.’
She learned beading and collage methods from the Masaai, LuBukusu and Kikuyu tribes while she was a nurse midwife practicing with a clinic in East Africa.
Her quilts range in size from 2-1/2 by three or four feet to one in her show that’s 13-1/2 by nine feet. She’s finished one in 2-1/2 days and taken as long as a month to complete another.
‘My quilts spring full-born into my mind,’ she said, and when she gets inspired, it’s not uncommon for her to ‘pull 14-hour days’ to get them done.’
There are 36 portraits in the ‘Yearning to Be Free: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’ show in New Albany. It runs through Sept. 15. (Sisto’s work can be seen on her Internet Web site, Pennysisto.com.)
Sisto said she decided to show some of her quilts at WOTS when Carnegie curator Sally Newkirk told her about it. Sisto said she believes in supporting the arts and artists in nearby towns.
Nava, 39, said, ‘I am a full-time Indian.’ He and Shannon, 32, spend most of their time taking their traveling ‘sensory museum’ to schools to teach children about the real indigenous people experience, which often contradicts that which has been taught in schools for generations. Nava says he tries not to get too political in his presentations, but Native populations were not snarling uncivilized savages who wore loincloths and scalped white soldiers with tomahawks.
Indigenous people were quite advanced in many ways. For example, Nava said, not many people realize that just down the road from here near Evansville, the Angel Mounds Mississippian culture, about 200 years before Columbus, numbered about 50,000 people in the ‘inner city,’ and another 150,000 to 200,000 beyond that.
‘It was a major city complex bordering on statehood,’ Nava said.
Indians in South America experimented with open-skull brain surgery and patients survived hundreds of years before it was tried in Europe. Nava said that 60 percent of all food that we consume world wide (corn, beans, tomatoes, squash, etc.) comes from natural food that originated in America.
The U.S. government now recognizes 562 different tribes of Indians. They had trading partners throughout the North America, alliances, governments and nations. Nava said that to think that all native populations in North, South and Central America are one big group is like thinking that all ethnic groups in Asia are the same. They aren’t.
Nava said it isn’t generally known that Indians didn’t regard things like bows and arrows and knives as weapons. They were tools. Nava will show how to produce fire with a bow in about 15 seconds, all without the benefit of lighter, matches or flint. ‘I would love to be on ‘Survivor,’ ‘ he quipped.
He and his wife will invite youngsters to handle 300 items in their ‘sensory museum.’ They can grind corn or try a ‘pump drill’ (‘the first Black and Decker cordless drill,’ Nava said) to drill a hole through a bison jaw.
Garcia said the success of World on the Square, which attracted about 2,000 people in four hours last year, is due to the ‘aura of wonder about all the cultures and people of the world and the allure of tasting different foods. That has a lot of draw. Being free hasn’t hurt. That helps.’
Visitors can enjoy plenty of entertainment at the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand. The schedule is: Anthony Redfeather Nava, American Indian storytelling and flute playing, 4 p.m.; Mystic Rhythm, African hand drumming, 5 p.m.; Guilderoy Byrne, Irish dance music, 6 p.m.; and Men of Thunder, Scottish bagpipes, drums and historical dress, 7 p.m.
Entertainment chair Lisa McSpadden said that between sets there will be Tae Kwon Do, Latin dance and Latin dress demonstrations.
‘We change every year. There are always different stands, and a big variety,’ Garcia said.
Exhibits co-chair Linda Runden said new booths this year will feature the Navas; Sisto and the Carnegie Center, the Community of Nigerians in Kentuckiana; the Muhammad Ali Center; Lenia Reyes of Cuba; Beatriz Paz from El Salvadore; Charles and Elizabeth Swarens about Mozambique; and Nicola Menchua of Guatemala.
Back for the eighth straight year are: Louisville Committee for Israeli and Palestinian States; Lan Ling and Tom Yuan from China; the Scottish Society of Louisville; the Irish Society of Louisville; Rick Haines, Tae Kwon Do; Maxine Brown, Leora Brown School; and Rekai Mahmoud, Eritrea.
Garcia said WOTS is ‘aimed at children, and that brings families. That’s very positive. Kids who fill out their passports get prizes also. There’s a lot to learn at the booths. It’s very exciting to learn about other countries.’
One of the most popular features of the festival, the free food sampling, representing many different countries, will be set up in the basement of the Corydon United Methodist Church, which faces the square’s east side. Last year, 725 people went through the line. ‘If people want to make it, we’d be happy to get ethnic food by 3 p.m.,’ said food chair Elizabeth Cato.
In case of rain, the festival will be held at Corydon Central High School.

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