International spotlight on Foxfire at China conference

  • Foxfire Executive Director T.J. Smith (right) took part in an international conference on folklore preservation in China recently.
    Foxfire Executive Director T.J. Smith (right) took part in an international conference on folklore preservation in China recently.
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Foxfire, the Rabun County-based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Appalachian mountain heritage, was recently in the spotlight half a world away.

Foxfire Executive Director T.J. Smith traveled to Guangzhou, China last month to talk about the organization and take part in an international idea-sharing conference at Sun Yat-sen University in partnership with the Chinese Folklore Society.

With a rich cultural history stretching back thousands of years, China has no shortage of opportunities to preserve their cultural heritage, but the Foxfire concept of local students interviewing older mountain residents was a novel approach for those attending the conference.

“They loved the concept, the idea of young people sort of interpreting their culture,” Smith said. “The way that young people see their culture is different than their parents and grandparents see it. These are young people who are living it. They represent the future of the region and the future of the culture. We need to hear from them.”

Smith said conference attendees were particularly interested in the way Foxfire collects local artifacts--in addition to stories and traditions--and shares them with the world.

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