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Clarissa Karasira is a singer, dancer and musician who recently moved to Maine from Rwanda. She grew up around music—her mother directed the church choir where her father served as pastor. Sharing her love of traditional African song performed in Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili and English with her two apprentices Phino Iradukunda and Phitson Ishimwe, Karasira’s apprenticeship will also focus on dancing.


As she describes it: “The traditional dances I perform are a living embodiment of our culture, a visual representation of our rituals, and a celebration of unity.”

Apprentice Phino Iradukunda (left) with Clarissa Karasira (right)

Photo: © Cultural Resources


Maryan Mohamed is a Somali Bantu basket maker who makes dambiilo, a type of traditional market basket. Maryann learned basketmaking from her family and is carrying on one of the oldest Somali Bantu traditions. She will be teaching apprentices Hawa Ibrahim, Habiba Salat and Abdirahman Dakane.  Actively involved in the basketmaking program at the community center run by the Somali Bantu Community Association of Lewiston, Maryann Mohamed has helped ensure that new generations continue the tradition.

Somali Bantu Baskets

Photo: © Peter Dembski


Alexandra Conover Bennett is a Maine guide, paddle maker, musician and writer. Along with Garrett Conover, she founded North Woods Ways in 1980, a northern woods wilderness and guiding center that is now part of the College of Atlantic. Based on Wabanaki design, Conover Bennett is known for her North Woods canoe paddles, fashioned from a single plank of wood – either ash, cherry or maple and will be teaching her apprentices Nate Knight, Jennifer Neptune (Penobscot) and Ella Reiheh Godino, ash and cherry paddle making with hand tools.

Alexandra Conover Bennett in her workshop

Photo: © Peter Dembski


Aron Griffith (Maliseet) makes traditional Maliseet baskets and other artwork, all crafted with birch bark and ash wood. He will be teaching his apprentice, Chase Griffith, how to select and prepare birch bark and ash for baskets, as well braiding sweetgrass and lashing the sinew to add further style and texture.  As a master birch bark basketmaker, Griffith hopes to pass on the traditional customs of his tribe while also creating a sustainable harvesting model for the future.

Birch Bark Basket by Aron Griffith

Photo: Courtesy of Artist


Brendaliz Cepeda is a Bomba Dancer, a tradition that has been passed down in her family for eight generations. Together with her husband, musician Saul Penalosa, they formed Bomba de Aqui, a dance and music company based in Massachusetts. Bomba is a traditional genre of music and dance in Borikén (Puerto Rico). Created by enslaved communities of African descent as a way to express themselves and sustain their culture, the instruments used in this tradition are the maracas, the cua (a small hollow drum played with sticks), and the barrel drums. Cepeda, with help from Penalosa, will be teaching Sayalí Robles, a South Portland based local Taíno community leader, the art of traditional Bomba.

Apprentice Sayalí Robles

Photo: © Cultural Resources


Hermila Vargas is a traditional dancer who grew up in Mexico. As a child, Vargas learned traditional dance at an early age and went on to study at Bellas Artes University and Casa de la Cultura en Mexico. Focusing on dances from the Veracruz region, Vargas will be teaching her apprentices Kelly Cunae and Bisa Ortiz and will be performing for community events, including Mother’s Day celebrations, in Milbridge, Maine.

Apprentices Kelly Cunae and Bisa Ortiz

Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

The apprenticeship program is generously supported by the

National Endowment for the Arts and the Maine Arts Commission.


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