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GUARDIANS OF TRADITION

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JENNY PACILLO
Vanessa Joga talks the talk, and walks the walk.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, she has
only been in Worcester for eight years, Joga ha
made a huge impact in the community with her
work on the Worcester Cultural Coalition and her
nonprofit, “Guardians of Tradition”.


Joga co-founded the Guardians of Tradition to
educate people about the “intersectionality of
our cultures and traditions” with workshops that
feature the arts and humanities. Her dedication
to inclusivity led to her newest endeavor of helping
with outreach for the City of Worcester’s Tercentennial
Committee.


When Joga was approached to be on the Tercentennial
Committee, one of her first questions
was, “how can we engage the community to make
them feel like they’re a part of this, to have people
talk about Worcester because of its people?”


Her idea was to connect with local artists and organizations,
like the Worcester Caribbean American
Carnival, to hold free workshops throughout
the month of May for residents to create giant
marionettes out recycled materials. No strings
attached, literally. These marionettes are based
on carnival characters from the Dominican Republic.
Think brilliant colors, detailed masks, and
decorated poles for arms. Carnivals in the Dominican
Republic date back to 1510, and are celebrated
throughout the country with elaborate masks,
costumes, and dancing.


As for Joga’s workshops, all ages and abilities are
welcome to participate and there are no prerequisites
to join in on the fun. “We can all be represented
and take part in this,” she says. Joga’s
vision is for members of the community to decorate
their marionettes in a way that reflects their
background. “Each marionette is going to serve
as a canvas for the person’s heritage and culture.
They’re going to get to tell their story,” Joga explains.
Artists are encouraged to decorate their
marionette to represent their neighborhood and
local community as well.


Creative Hub Worcester and ArtsReach Worcester
will host these weekly workshops beginning
on May 3rd and every Tuesday throughout the
month. A second round of workshops will begin
on May 14th. Sign ups can be found at Worcester Tercentennial.
com or on the Guardians of Traditions
Facebook page. Joga is proud to include
local artists in her workshops, including Hank
VonHellion, Bruja the Villian, and Will Smith,
with special guest Luis Rivas.


Rivas is an extremely talented Dominican artist
who uses recycled materials to create sculptures,
floats for Carnival in the Dominican Republic, and
even costumes for Dominican Miss Universe contestants.
He visited Worcester over the summer in
2021 for a Carnival style mask making workshop
hosted by Guardians of Traditions and Creative
Hub Worcester. Learning about marionettes from
Rivas is an amazing opportunity and will definitely
be a great experience.


Joga will provide the recycled materials needed to
design the marionettes, and she is happy to take
donations for artists to repurpose. “We want to
engage the community and bring a message of
taking care of the environment,” she tells me. Everyone
who attends Joga’s workshops will be able
to march in the Tercentennial parade with their
creation for the whole city to enjoy. As she excitedly
talks about her truly inclusive plan to bring
all the neighborhoods together, it’s easy to envision
her idea and look forward to what promises
to be a vibrant part of the Tercentennial parade.

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