Mayo Street Arts announces recipients of micro-granting program in support of traditional arts in Maine

Daniella Mawika, TAN Coordinator, introduces the Congolese ensemble FAKI (Fanfare Kimbanguiste) before they perform at the Traditional Arts Network Gathering at Mayo Street Arts on December 11, 2021. (Photo by Coco McCracken)


Kemal Pohan 

Community Outreach Manager, Mayo Street Arts / (207) 879-4629

Mayo Street Arts announces recipients of micro-granting program in support of traditional arts in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine — Eight traditional artists and ensembles who have arrived in Maine bearing cultural and artistic heritage from their countries of origin have received financial support this summer thanks to a new micro-granting program.

The Traditional Arts Network (TAN) Fund has awarded small grants of $500 – $1,000 to New Mainer artists to overcome short-term financial hurdles and/or lay the foundation for long-term goals. The application process was designed to provide artists with a low-barrier, first time experience with grant applications.

The funding will support a range of activities. This year’s recipients of the TAN Fund are:

  • Baba Ly — Fulani acoustic guitar player and storyteller; will purchase a professional sound system to support his work
  • Batimbo United — Burundian drumming & dance ensemble; will offset shipping expenses to transport a new set of drums from Burundi
  • Fanfare Kimbanguiste (FAKI) — Congolese church band; will purchase more instruments for their group, including a tuba
  • Jawad Al Fatlawi — Master oud player & luthier; will begin the construction of a new, guitar-shaped, “Goldeneye” oud
  • Michelle Kazaka — Writer & storyteller; will publish & promote her memoir, “How Long the Night”
  • Namory Keita — Guinean master drummer; will purchase new drums for his students to grow his teaching career
  • Sabina Najafova — Dancer & visual artist who hails from Azerbaijan; will purchase visual arts materials and new costume for performances
  • Sayalí Robles — Taíno indigenous artist with African roots; will create a Bomba dance apprenticeship group and bring Borikén’s (now called Puerto Rico) culture to Maine

The TAN Fund is made possible through support from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The Maine Arts Commission is incredibly excited to have been able to provide some seed funding for this important project. We so often celebrate and honor the many cultural traditions that our newest residents bring to our state. This program invests in those artists directly by providing financial support for the development and growth of their work. We’re honored to be a part of that important effort,” Maine Arts Commission Executive Director David Greenham said.

The TAN Fund Awards were administered by Mayo Street Arts and reviewed by a TAN Fund Committee composed of community-based artists and cultural advocates who are part of the vibrant immigrant communities of Portland and Lewiston/Auburn.

A collaboration between Mayo Street Arts (MSA) and Cultural Resources, the TAN grew out of discussions with local traditional artists interested in networking with other immigrant communities and artists. Traditional arts are passed down generationally—usually within families and communities—and can take many forms including vocal and instrumental music, dance, crafts, culinary and textile arts, and occupational traditions. The network provides support and infrastructure for newcomer artists and cultural organizations from Maine’s Rwandan, Burundi, Congolese, Somali, and Somali Bantu communities, among others. Membership in the TAN is open to anyone who would like to participate.

In addition to the TAN Fund, the network organizes artist gatherings and offers a Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program to support the education of a new generation of traditional artists who will help preserve their communities’ cultural heritages.

To request more information and/or assistance, please email, call Mayo Street Arts at 207-879-4629, or visit the Traditional Arts Network website at




Mayo Street Arts is known for performances of music, theater, puppetry, dance, and visual arts. It is also one of the few venues in Maine with which immigrant artists and neighbors feel a strong connection through events like International Open Mic, coordinated by local singer-songwriter Jenny Van West, which draws multicultural performers from throughout Greater Portland; partnerships with community organizations such as Portland Adult Ed, which offers a Family English Class at MSA for non-English speaking parents in East Bayside; and a no cost arts-based literacy summer program for neighborhood students. Learn more at:

Cultural Resources collaborates with diverse communities in Maine on developing strategies, alliances, and programs that help sustain their traditional culture. A nonprofit, Cultural Resources provides fieldwork documentation and community organizing which results in the development of a range of community driven programs including artists’ gatherings, apprenticeship programs, and exhibitions. Learn more at: