By Tara Martin
I went to IlluminAsia as a visitor since I was too young to volunteer. IlluminAsia was a two-day festival (October 14-15, 2017) marking the re-opening of the Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Museums of Asian Art. Me and my mom went around 9 on the Saturday it opened. It was very crowded, which we sort of expected. We first explored the festival outside before going inside the Sackler/Freer. We first went to a paper lantern station. I made a very simple paper lantern by cutting a piece of construction paper and attaching a little light to it. It was really cute! We then went to the food section (which was even more crowded) and went to a poster and screen-printing tent. Sadly, therer we waited for a long time in the poster making line but it wasn’t too bad! It gave us time to take in the festival (and start to get hungry). My mom really liked how that section was lit and arranged; she said that it reminded her of a Thai street market at night. When it was my turn, I choose stencils and colors and they spray-painted the designs on. We then went over to the next tent, which was the Japan-America Society’s tent. They had this really cute game called “The Chopstick Game”, where you picked up a piece of folded up paper and you would open it and learn a Japanese phrase or word. My mother and I then tried to get momo (a Nepali food), but the line was really long; so we decided to go to the museum. On our way in, we saw a craft station with stencils and rubbings and really gorgeous mandalas opposite of the station.
Inside the Sackler, we saw the Subodh Gupta (terminal). Downstairs, we saw two exhibits: Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt and Encountering the Buddha. The Divine Feline exhibit was about how cats were valued in Ancient Egypt and how they were mummified. The Encountering the Buddha exhibit has a lot of Buddhist statues from all parts of east and southeast Asia. They even had a model Tibetan temple (which put our little Buddhist shrine to shame). We then went to the gift shop where i bought a book on Japanese folklore and fairy tales. Afterwards, we tried to get over to the Freer (emphasis on tried). It was at least 10 minutes before we found our way into the Freer Gallery. In the Freer, the exhibits were separated by region/country. We saw the jade exhibit (China), the origins of Japanese Buddhist paintings (Japan), and early Iran/Iraq gold plates and treasures. They had a “Tea in the Courtyard,” where you could go in and buy tea ($1). In the courtyard, they had tables set up for playing games like Mahjong.
We left IlluminAsia around 12 am (midnight)!