Looking for remote and colorful festivals around the world. Add your suggestions!

Hello forum world,

I thought this could be a good place to find suggestions for rural festivals around the world.  I'm a photographer and currently working on putting together a project with National Geographic to document ten of the world's most remote festivals or cultural traditions.  We are looking for very remote, colorful, and culturally interesting events.  I would be most eager to hear your suggestions. 

I can be reached directly at:


Ross McDermott

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Hello Ross McDermott,
its was nice to hear you about your project with NG.
had you ever think and hear about Nepal, now a chair of Least Developed Countries-- a venue with dynamic vogue of culture with total indigenous rural essence.

u shall google abt Nepal.
for me, i think it can b the dashing if not best, for your venture.

Happy Life.
God Bless

Birkha B Pun
Kathmandu Nepal
Dear R.

ofcourse, majority places had been catered my foreign tourists but they are near city mostly except some few other.

Ya, we have amples of festivities and colors of cultures tht i will let you know later. for them, i need to make study and review. he can find indegenious types of cultures in rural exactly.

keep touch.
In the remote regions of Guyana, indigenous peoples hold "heritage" games. I attended a few for the subdistrict in which I worked, in the south western region of Guyana. They are pretty colourful, and I am sure that the more remote groups hold similar and less publicised festivals. Most villages do it as part of the national Amerindian Heritage Month, but for the most part they are kept pretty local.

Also, have you thought of festivals associated with the seasons in areas such as Siberia, South Pacific, East Africa (depending on how much of a challenge you are up for).

Hope this helps in some shape or form. I am a avid subscriber to NG, and once pondered the idea of working for them, so I am quite keen to offer any insight I can.

Good Luck!
There are tons of games, competitions, music and performances. The games are of "indigenous" nature. However, I would suggest going to the smaller celebrations in August and not the nationally funded ones in September. I participated in some of the non-indigenous games as well as a few of the indigenous ones. My claim to fame just happened to be the Kari (manioc beer) drinking competition, but there are many more besides the intoxicating ones. I am not sure whether some of the indigenous groups are remote enough, but it may be a location to consider.

I can definitely give you a few contacts if you wish to learn more. Hope it helps

Ross McDermott said:
Thanks for the tip. I will certainly look into the heritage games. Besides the festivities being colorful, what actually takes place at these events? Are there competitions, sport, dance, music?

Ross McDermott wrote:

Looking for remote and colorful festivals around the world. Add your suggestions!

* Posted by Ross McDermott on February 2, 2010 at 4:42am in Welcome to the new OAC Forum

Hello forum world,

I thought this could be a good place to find suggestions for rural festivals around the world. I'm a photographer and currently working on putting together a project with National Geographic to document ten of the world's most remote festivals or cultural traditions. We are looking for very remote, colorful, and culturally interesting events. I would be most eager to hear your suggestions.

I can be reached directly at:


Ross McDermott

Interesting project, particularly also in view of examples from Japan. Because Japan was secluded from outer contacts and had relatively little impacts of Christianity and thus conserved a tremendous amount of local Shinto festivals which can be interpreted as temporally deep rooted types of survivals.

Except a few large and famous types which have become part of "tourism" most of them have remained local, not even known by the great public in Japan. And the larger part are practically unknown outside of Japan.

Since Japan has an excellent ethnography of its own traditional culture, there is an enormous scientific literature about them. And in the last decades a popular literature with many photographs has been diffused. It means that informations exist, but they are mostly in Japanese.

In regard to the character of the festivals one can - in the framework you indicate - distinguish dominantly historical festivals giving some sort of a review of important historical actors and events of a certain place. This type usually consists of processions through towns or villages with historical cultural elements like important social figures, military outfit or cultic background (deities of a certain shrine with special symbol carts and the like). There are also types which are specialised on particular cultural characteristics of a certain time, like ritual dances, sacred theatres with music and songs. These festivals can usually be characterized as illustrative and "colourful".

In contrast to these heterogeneous and often large scale types of festivals there is another type which could be called puristic, or mysterious, or prehistorical as alluding to the formation and foundation of the sedentary life of agrarian settlement. These festivals allude to what is called 'primitive religion' in the West but if properly studied they show just the opposite of this devalueing categorization: they are extremely complex and fundamental for the life of the farming village. In addition we obtain important indicators about the evolution of the agrarian culture, the basic stratum of Japanese society and its history.

At this particular type of festivals sacred signs and symbols are constructed by special cult organisations of the village, usually the oldest families male representants. Erected in the centre of the village these signs and symbols have a strongly territorial character being related to the foundation of the village. As an annually cyclic and formally stereotype tradition they created some sort of a local hegemony of the most ancient families (ujiko) in the village. The cult shows a new implication: to conserve a symbol made of perishable plant materials, an aspect which archaeology conventionally has never been aware, but which might have been of great importance in the evolution of human culture.

At the same time they create an aesthetic structure, a YinYang type of harmony expressed by the principle of 'coincidence of opposites' within the same form. Thus evidently a very ancient and influencial type of aesthetic principle which is particularly impressive because the whole symbol is built mainly with reed and bamboo, fibrous plant materials which imply that the hand is the primary tool.

All these symbols are considered as local deities, not of a wider pantheon, but evidently related to the village itself as 'village protector deity' (ujigami) a concept that was also very important as 'clan deity' in early Japanese history .

Since these symbols are built with fibrous plant materials they also give us new ideas about the evolution of architecture. The theory that shelters and huts in ancient times were basic architectural forms to protect the human body against climate impacts is fundamentally questioned as a "domestic" retroprojection. Evidently "semantic architecture" had not been scientifically conceived yet as an important architectural prototype. If however we assume that early man in the framework of paleolithic "tectiformes" built architectural signs and symbols with fibrous materials, first in the context of food control, later in relation to the territorial occupation of sedentary habitats, we gain a new type of - not simply archaeological - but anthropological sources telling us that territorial behavior was of great cultural importance (settlement core complex, life-tree-fetish-maypole complex). It is a process which was essential in the formation of sedentary culture and agriculture as well as higher civilization.

I have studied this phenomenon all over Japan on one hand and in particular around the Biwa lake in the Omihachiman region with the main research over 4 years into a documentation of 100 villages. The festival in Omihachiman is well known, but that there are 100 villages in the region is a fact which became evident by asking from village to village. The festivals in these villages are very special, particularly by the archaic buildings that suddenly and mysteriously appear in front of the village shrine. And second also by the fact that all is organised according to an extreme localism or territorial order, the essential signs fixed to the earth being built in front of each shrine by the group of elders representative of the corresponding hamlet-shrine and the mobile high pillars of the young men groups which are built in the villages, then brought to the main shrine. The whole set of fibrous symbols is finally eliminated in the form of an often gigantic and very impressive fire festival.

Before central Shinto introduced wooden shrines as sanctuaries, the signs definitely had this territorial function. They stood at the place of the now wooden shrines during one year. Evidently they were replaced because after one year they looked fairly weathered. When the wooden shrine system was ordered to be introduced into the villages by the central Shinto office, the ancient types of signs became obsolete, but were continued in temporary form. In the present festival they are built anew like in ancient times, but do not stand one year anymore, but are dissolved with fire after one or two days. This is the reason why the fire festival has become the dominant event of the cult. And this is also the reason why this type of festival is hardly known today anymore, because the ancient structure is seen only on one or two days in the year. Thus, for many its originally very important social, territorial, aesthetic and symbolic meanings got forgotten.

Of course these festivals have also an anthropological value. On one hand - if we interprete them as a relatively intact agrarian tradition - they allow us to better understand the territorial criteria that were responsible for the rise of sedentary life and agricultural food production in neolithic times. On the other hand they allow us also to construct new theories about the origins of religion because we find many indications that there were very similar rites in other parts of the world, particularly in Ancient Near East and Ancient Egypt and that territorio-political implications of 'theocratic constitutions' of early states might have been developed from such local sedentary "creations".

I would be interested in cooperation regarding some of the festivals in the Omihachiman region. Time might be short: Festivals are performed in March and beginning of April. If you are interested please let me know. Below see the study of 100 villages in pdf Format.

Best wishes

Nold Egenter

Go to following URL (100 village study)
--> http://home.worldcom.ch/negenter/015cBooks.html
Then copy the 5 parts of the following book (pdf Format)
Architectural Anthropology: Semantic and Symbolic Architecture; An architectural-ethnological survey into hundred villages of central Japan [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]


Why are you so interested in remote, colorful, and supposedly undiscovered people? What do you mean by remote? Inaccessible? Untouched by the western world? Tourist-free? Are these more marketable traits?
Well in Costa Rica, I don´t remember well, there is a tradition related to ox carrying, and also the Mascarada tradicional Costarricense, it is celebrated in different parts of the country (Don´t worry this country is small...) Maybe there is information avaible....
Also there is a really colorful tradition in one province Cartago, called "La Romería de San Antonio" this tradition have been studied but not quite poular as ox carrying, this is related to the 19th century, well maybe far more older but, with the coffee plantation "el boyeo" became a really important activity because this way coffee was brought to San Jose and to the main ports for exportation.
the São João in northeast brazil (during june).
remote and tourist free? colourful people who live in harmony with nature, not yet spoliated by Western modernity? get real, I think anthropology has overcome this, and so should national geographic. tourists or some sort of foreigners are part of most festivals; the purity and colourfulness you are looking for, why don't you search it in your own living room? remote can never be more than a perspective; go to Koeln Carnival in Germany if you look for something remote and colourful. Anthropology has been trying hard to decolonise its language and approaches for the past 30 years, so asking anthropologists to feed into NG's presumed need for 'markeable' exotising images of remote people - as if we needed to cultivate these as some kind of human zoo to convince ourselves of our own humanity - seems a strange thing to do; what do other people here think about this?
Well Nicos I don't agree. We can't preach relativity on the one hand, and then say: come on, let's all agree to love 'native' people. Please tell me what that entails, 'native' people, some dream of authenticity projected onto people presumably remote in time, space and social life; brought into being, nurtured and thus perpetuated by naive photographers, anthropologists and marketing people? I thought people like James Clifford, George Marcus, Johannes Fabian, and many others had convincingly demonstrated the type of racism (is that the right word?) this approach implied and continues to imply; isn't showing the remoteness of others showing our own centrality? There is nothing wrong with naivity, all the contrary, and people following their aesthetic; but if anthropology wants to be more than just another storyteller affirming people that they are good people, and be taken seriously, I guess anthropologists have to detach themselves from their naive aesthetic of wild remote people. and they also have to tell photographers that there are some very good paradigms that allow us to think the human and differences among humans through more sophisticated ideas than they-remote-and-colourful, we-modern-and-in-need-of-colours

Come on David , don't be so much nervous , everybody knows what NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC is trying to do or to prove, of course anthropology is too much deep to give instructions in such a silly question about the top 10 festivals ( as the top ten songs in a competition) but photographers are working hard to have a living and we must help them with our professional knowledge so i can give a catalogue of remote festivals (if not too ridicoulus to name it a calatalogue )...

But the point must be to make amateurs love native people is in't ? Sometimes a good aim can surpass dull means...

I completely agree with you. And I am pretty surprised that there weren't more critical responses to this thread. Amazed, actually.



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