____________A celebration of the many traditional arts in New Hampshire and the communities that share them.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dancing toward self-empowerment and cultural pride with New American Africans

Concord, NH youth dancing during New American Africans after school program

Twenty teenage Congolese boys kneel on a Concord community center floor performing synchronized dance movements with their eyes trained on their instructor, Thierryne Dusabe. There are giggles and serious faces and singing. The group instinctively breaks from their routine to shout improvisational chants, words, and sounds. To an English speaking listener, these outbursts in the Congolese & Rwandan language of Kinyarwanda are indecipherable except for the clear feeling of joy being sung into the air by these Concord youth. If you follow the sound of giggles and laughter, a group of teenage girls can be found in the bathroom practicing their coordinated moves into the mirror. Each week from Tuesday through Friday dozens of Concord’s Congolese, Burundi, and Rwandan youth participate in an after school program offered by New American Africans, a nonprofit organization. NAA Director Honroé Murenzi says that the primary goal of the afterschool program “…is to help our students to catch up to their peers and promote high expectation for themselves. NAA offers an after school program that strives to link families with their child's academic success as well as to reinforce cultural strength and pride.”

Dancing during New American African's after school program
Concord, NH youth dancing during NAA's after school program
Youth focus on after school academic help Tuesday through Thursday, and on Friday they learn traditional Congolese and Rwandan dances. Murenzi shares, “We are committed to supporting opportunities for children and families to come together in community activities that not only reflect their own cultural perspectives, but that also expose them to diverse (and similar) approaches to expressing cultural perspectives through dance, music and the arts. These are traditions that reinforce a strong sense of community pride and sense of well-being” The program aims to give students a greater sense of self-worth and confidence in their ability to overcome academic challenges that arise from cultural and linguistic barriers. The program involves parents and young adult role models in sharing and celebrating traditional culture. 

The youth are practicing the traditional dances of Ikinimba and Igishakamba, Umushayayo/ Umushayagiro, and Intore, that are performed during weddings, ceremonies and important cultural events. The youth will perform in a community wide cultural celebration in the spring.


New American Africans (NAA) is a self-supporting community group for refugees living in New Hampshire. Through African leadership, NAA develops strong immigrant communities that reflect diverse cultural perspectives by promoting collaboration, equity, resilience and opportunities to thrive with dignity and respect.

Thierryne Dusabe: Traditional Burundi dancer Thierryne Dusabe grew up in Rwanda and attended the College of Medical Technicians, Gitega in Burundi where she participated in the dance group Inyange. She was later resettled at the Zaleka refugee camp in Malawi where she joined a Burundian traditional dance group Imanzi that performed in weddings, and cultural shows. Dusabe is currently a student at Nashua Community College studying nursing.

This program is supported in part by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Performing Artists: Become NEST eligible | Educators: Please take our 5 minute survey

Traditional Performing Artists: How to become a NEST (New England States Touring) performer.

The New England Foundation for the Arts offers quarterly NEST (New England States Touring) grants to organizations who want to bring an out-of-state performer to their organization. The performers are chosen from a list of "NEST eligible performers". If you are a performing artist who is interested in performing out of state, and has done at least 5 public performances in the past year, you can apply to be added to the list of NEST eligible artists. You will need a CreativeGround profile in order to be considered. Watch this video to find out how to become a NEST performer.

Educators: Please take our 5 minute Survey

The NH State Council on the Arts believes that studying local art forms, history, and culture, can foster connections with the community, develop citizenship, and directly support state curriculum objectives. The Heritage and Traditional Arts Program in consultation with the Arts in Education program, artists and educators is developing lesson plans and curriculum units to help teachers share our artistic traditions with K-12 students. We are asking for your help in identifying what makes a good teaching and learning resource. What do you need most to support your instruction?

We appreciate you taking time to answer the following questions that will inform what type of resources we develop.

Members of the Orzechowski family performing at Canterbury Shaker Village

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NH Folklife Calendar

The NH Council on the Arts wants to share exciting news that the NH Folklife website was recently redesigned to be ADA accessible and provide more opportunities for sharing the many cultural heritage events and programs across the state. The redesign was possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The official launch of the site will not be until mid- November, but we wanted to share with you some of the new features. A new NH Folklife calendar can be used to promote your workshops, events, dances, gatherings, fairs, demonstrations, and learning opportunities. There are already many events populated on the calendar!  We will be working toward have this calendar included on state-wide tourist sites, social media and promote in regional newspapers.  If you have upcoming cultural heritage events that you would like to share, please fill out the form, and bookmark the link to publicize future events. Thank you all for your creativity, passion, and investment in our communities.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Bhutanese Bamboo Carving & Weaving

New Hampshire is home to over two-thousand Bhutanese refugees who have been resettling in the state since 2008. Many of our new community members are skilled artisans, musicians, and dancers who bring with them knowledge of traditional Bhutanese and Nepali cultural traditions including the weaving and carving of bamboo. In South Asia bamboo is an abundant resource that is used for crafts, to make furniture, and even as a building material. When Bhutanese refugees lived in camps in Nepal, many sold bamboo products as a source of income. In New England it can be difficult to obtain the same kind of bamboo used in Bhutan and Nepal, so many artists are adapting traditional art forms to use new materials that are more accessible here in New Hampshire.

Binayo- a small mouth harp that is carved from pieces of bamboo. The binayo is played by putting one end of the instrument in your mouth and plucking a string that is suspended over a small hole. The pitch of the instrument changes when you open and close your mouth. According to Dhadi Rai, binayo have been played in Bhutan and Nepal “forever”. He learned how to make and play this instrument from his father. The binayo can be played alone or for when groups of friends get together. 

Muda- a woven sitting stool found in many homes of Bhutanese refugees. The stool is made by cutting and carving a pole of mature bamboo into thin reeds. The reeds are then woven into a mat and tied with strong twine. The mat is then folded into an hourglass shape and two rims made out of bicycle tires are added. The top rim is then sewn to the bamboo reeds and covered with a decorative weaving pattern. Mudas are both strong and decorative for the home. 

Many new community members are assisted by the Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire, a community nonprofit organization founded in 2010 to help New Americans living in the state of New Hampshire to achieve a better quality of life.

New Hampshire State Council on the Arts has been working with photographer and community member Becky Field of Fieldwork Photos to identify immigrant and refugee community members who are respected in their communities as traditional musicians and craftspeople. 

From Top: Detail of woven muda;  Puspa Adhakari splitting bamboo; Adhakari shaving bamboo reeds;
Adhakari weaving top of muda; 
Dhadi Rai playing a binayo he carved out of bamboo.
Photos and fieldwork by Becky Field.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ebru Painting

The New Hampshire Turkish Cultural Center in Manchester offers Turkish cultural classes in the arts, language, cooking, and more for New Hampshire’s growing Turkish community. They are proud to have skilled artists like Hümeyra Ozcan living in New Hampshire and to be able to share this cultural tradition with other community members.

Ebru is a traditional Turkish form of painting that is described as “painting on water.” It has been practiced in Turkey since the 13th century. Marbled paper has been used as a background for calligraphy, religious texts, and to decorate special books. For many centuries people have thought that Turkish artists’ marbling styles were the best in the world.

To create the marbled paper, water is thickened by adding the gum from the tragacanth plant. This creates an oily surface which helps paint pigments float on top of the water and not get absorbed. An Ebru artist then takes a needle, a special comb, or brushes made out of horse hair to swirl the paint pigments together in endless patterns. Most Ebru artists spend years apprenticing or learning from a Master teacher. Once the artist is happy with the pattern, absorbent paper is carefully laid down on top of the water and lifted back out in one motion.

The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts has been working with photographer and community scholar Becky Field of Fieldwork Photos to identify immigrant and refugee community members who are respected in their communities as traditional musicians and craftspeople.  

Left: Hümeyra Ozcan leading an Ebru painting
workshop at the Turkish Cultural Center in Manchester, NH