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The saga of women
Just to be clear, men aren't excluded from Saga Fest — the women's art and music gathering held each year at California State University, Fresno. Sure, the festival is all about women, and there's a bit of a riot grrl edge to the whole thing (or maybe the Lilith Fair), but seeing it as a women's-only event might miss the whole point.
Here, we chat with organizers about the festival's third year.
Let's start with the quick rundown.
Saga Women's Art and Music Festival is a yearly music show with bands featuring women, women MCs, spoken word artists, as well as booths for local artists to display their work. We also have informational booths for on- and off-campus organizations to get the word out about the kind of work they are doing and how to get involved. Saga is put on each year by P.O.W.E.R. (People Organized for Womens Empowerment and Representation), which is the Fresno State club for Women's Studies majors and minors, as well as other feminist/progressive/conscientious students.
What is the importance of having this kind of outlet as a showcase for women, even if it is just once a year?
More often than not, when you go to a show, particularly in Fresno, it was probably put on by men, features men, and has an audience full of men. Now, of course, the goal is to create balanced events, where women and men of all ethnicities, orientations, able-bodiedness, and body sizes are part and parcel to the production and atmosphere of the event. But it's also pretty amazing to be a part of an event that is a space for women to perform, celebrate, connect, and show the side of creativity that doesn't get as much air time in Fresno.
Without trying to make it sound like there is some sort of specific category, “women” that creates a particular “women's culture,” there is a difference in the vibe of a women-centered event. There is a difference in the way folks relate to one another when you cut out all the macho stuff, or the weird ways of talking about women that some male musicians have, or when you just intentionally focus on diversity. Last year's Saga Fest was a great example. There was just this amazing relaxed vibe, great dancing and a lot of celebration, solidarity and sisterhood. It felt great to be a part of it.
P.O.W.E.R. works to put together women-centered events as often as our school schedules allows. So, even though Saga Fest is only once a year, we also help to put together the Vagina Monologues in the spring and hold occasional movie nights and other events.
Let's hope this doesn't come off wrong, but ... what will I get out of the festival as a male?
That definitely doesn't come off wrong because it is a valid question that guys are asking. The easy answer is, of course men can benefit from exposing themselves to diversity and attempts to bring balance to Fresno events. One thing people don't always realize is that sexism hurts men too. The macho pandering that many guys have to navigate with one another will not be a part of this event. Saga Fest is a safe space for everyone.
When the focus is always on one type of person, whether that type is male, white, heterosexual, upper class, or combinations of these, there is a lack of balance that needs to be brought back into our communities. First of all, Saga Fest will benefit men because who doesn't love an evening of art and music? It's a great night of hanging out and talking, dancing, and hearing women express their souls.
But also, it's something different then the same ol' same ol'.
Give us some history on the festival. What was the original motivation and how has it changed in the three years it's been happening?
This is the third annual event and each year it has been a little different. The first year there was an amazing group of women who put it on, complete with a fundraiser and shirts. The whole thing took place in the Peace Garden. Unfortunately, the event got rained out that year. But it was still a huge success, even with the rain. People wanted to stick around for it so bad, even if they got soaked.
The second year, most of the folks who had been a part of P.O.W.E.R. previously had graduated, so the group of women putting the event together was significantly smaller. So the event was smaller and in a different location on campus because of all of the construction around the library.
This year we have a lot more help putting Saga Fest together. There are a great bunch of women working on it, which has expanded the direction it can go. This year we have two female MCs, graffiti artists, and have all-around managed to draw in a wider range of art and music. We also have a couple of bands coming in from other parts of the Valley this year.
Can we get a few names of bands/artists that people might know?
The bands playing include Inflight Nymphs, a singer/songwriter named Natalie, K.B.,
See You Soon — all from Fresno — as well as
Riot Whore, from Merced and Three Chord Whore, from Bakersfield. Anaka Belly Dance Troupe is performing, as will local spoken word artists including Fresno State professors
Michelle Brittan and Courtney Miller.
There are several local artists displaying their work, including
Caroline Baca (who did the cover of this month's Undercurrent),
Aurora Armijo and Vishinna Turner. There is an amazing woman named Savannah selling really unique earrings and Cierra Bolin will be selling reusable menstrual pads that she sews together herself.
Explain the name Saga Fest? The Webster definition of sags is a long detailed account, which is how I'm taking from the name. It's the story or of women, or something like that. Am I right/wrong?
Saga is not just about the story of women, but bringing the stories of women back to center stage. These lost histories, communities and ways have been lost for too long. In many cultures, women's contributions are seen as so vital. If women's rituals, inputs, etc. are lost, the community isn't going to function properly. We need that kind of recognition brought back. We need to bring back balance and respect for all in our society.
The third annual Saga Women's Art and Music Festival
Featuring music, spoken word, art displays and informational booths
4 to 10 p.m., Oct. 9
California State University, Fresno, on the Maple Mall
(That big grass area south of the Satellite Student Union)
Free parking in lots C and A