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Spotlight on Sunday: South African Vusi Mahlasela, presidential pets and Valentine's Day gift-making

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Entertainment,Buzz

SOULSHINE

Made popular in America by the Bonnaroo crowd -- including duets with Warren Haynes and the Dave Matthews Band, among many others -- South African Vusi Mahlasela's unique sound of soul and falsetto transcends language and culture. Known as "The Voice" in his home country, he brings a poetic optimism in his lyrics. Touring on his latest album, "Say Africa," you'll hear songs of freedom, revolution, love and life, all tying back to his passions, as evidenced by his performance at Nelson Mandela's inauguration in 1994 and his continued work as an ambassador to Mandela's HIV/AIDS initiative, 46664, as well as Oxfam, the Acumen Fund, the African Leadership Academy and the ONE Campaign.

Mahlasela will be singing at the Hamilton Live (600 14th St. NW), a wonderful venue for this type of singer, where you will be just feet from his soulful performance. Tickets are $27.50 at thehamiltondc.com. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

PRESIDENTIAL PETS

Did you know President Adams had a pet alligator? And he wasn't the only commander in chief with an unusual pet. Along with a menagerie of dogs, cats, horses and birds, presidents and their families also had pet snakes, raccoons, bears, cows, mice and more. In "President Adams' Alligator and Other White House Pets," by Peter and Cheryl Barnes, children get to meet Warren Harding's dog, who was served a birthday cake made of dog biscuits, and Teddy Roosevelt's pony, who rode up the White House elevator. The book teaches children about the presidency through pets, from George Washington to Barack Obama.

Just in time for President's Day, the Washington Humane Society is teaming up with the authors for a children's book signing hosted by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (1526 14th St. NW).

Adopt Force One, the WHS mobile adoption center, will be onsite with adoptable animals ready to find their forever homes. During the 1 to 3 p.m. event, co-author Cheryl Barnes will do an interactive reading from the book, with props and games for the kids. All day-of book sales will benefit the WHS.

DIY GIFT-MAKING

Just in time for Valentine's Day gift giving, the Smithsonian is here to help provide that personal, hand-crafted object sure to win over your special someone's heart (if not eyes). At "Lover's Eye," local painter and illustrator Becca Kallem discusses the American Art Museum's collection of eye miniatures and then will teach visitors how to properly sketch an eye. Participants will have an opportunity to create their own miniature, perfect for that special Valentine.

Kallem is a perfect instructor for newcomers, too, as she has taught painting and drawing at George Washington University, Arlington County Public Schools and for community center programs in the D.C. area. The event starts at 1:30 p.m. at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's (Eighth and F streets NW) Luce Foundation Center on the third floor.

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