Program sustains and extends old and new cultural traditions in Maine

AUGUSTA — The Maine Arts Commission has announced its 2015-16 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grantees.

“The Traditional Arts Apprenticeships are a core program for the Commission in sustaining and extending both old and new cultural traditions in Maine. We are thrilled that our partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts allows us to support these master artists and their apprentices as they develop relationships and further their traditional arts,” Executive Director Julie Richard, said in a news release from the commission.

A panel review with members from around the country made competitive awards, in a process approved by the Commission, to four Traditional Arts Apprenticeship teams lead by masters Julia Plumb, Sarah Sockbeson, The Somali Bantu Community Association of Lewiston/Auburn and the CAFAM Chinese School.

The Somali Bantu Community Association of Lewiston/Auburn will sponsor four apprenticeships.

• Atiy Haji is a master Somali Bantu basket maker who makes Dambiilo, or market baskets; Masafs, flat baskets; and sisal mats called Sali. This year, she will teach Malyun Negye and will continue her work with the Somali Bantu Women’s Basket weaving program in Lewiston.

• Aden Hersi is an accomplished sharrara player and singer living in Lewiston. The sharrara is a triangular lyre instrument that resembles a guitar. The music plays an important role in Somali Bantu culture, especially at weddings, festivals and other special occasions. Aden Hersi will teach Abdullahi Sheikh.

• Hassan Barjin will teach Halima Mohamed tailoring and embroidery. An accomplished tailor for many years at the Dedaab refugee camp in Kenya, Hassan Barjin has continued to make clothing and embroidery for the Somali Bantu community of Lewiston.

• Muhidin Libah, who is the director of the Somali Bantu Community Association of Lewiston/Auburn, is also a tumaal, a small scale metal worker who fixes watches, makes tin cups and also makes needles for basket makers. He is now making handmade weaving needles for the basket weavers of Lewiston. His apprentice is Abdulahi Muse.

Sarah Sockbeson, a master Penobscot basket maker, will teach her apprentice Hilary Browne the tradition of gathering, preparing, and weaving brown ash and sweetgrass into traditional Wabanaki baskets. A basket maker since 2003, Sockbeson has been making a living as a basket maker for more than11 years and has recently shown her work at the Portland Museum of Art’s Biennial Exhibition.

The CAFAM Chinese School is sponsoring master Fan Luo to teach traditional Chinese folk dances to Mae Lan Rosenstein, Sylvie Ling Rosenstein and Lily Thompson. Growing up in China, Fan Luo began learning both folk dance and classical dance at the age of 10. More than 10 years ago, she moved to the U.S. and began teaching Chinese dance at the CAFAM Chinese School in Portland.

Julia Plumb, a master dance fiddler, will teach apprentice Willy Clemetson. Plumb grew up with New England contra and dance music and is currently a teacher at the Maine Fiddle Camp. A long-standing New England tradition, contra dances and fiddling are experiencing resurgences in Maine, especially in the midcoast area, home of the Maine Fiddle Camp.

The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program is supported, in part, by the Commission’s Partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, Folk and Traditional Arts Program.

A complete list of the Maine Arts Commission’s 2016 grant awardees can be found online at

For more information, call Kathleen Mundell, special programs director, at 287-6746.

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