April 21, 2013

Deirdre Fleming: Cultural and natural diversity surely worth a celebration

Who needs a reason to have a parade? In dance instructor Marita Kennedy-Castro's mind, the warmth of spring and the green grass are reason enough. But there are other good reasons.

click image to enlarge

A ram puppet head made by Maine College of Art students for the 2006 Ebune parade in Portland.

Tony Castro Photo

The need to bring together people of different cultures and celebrate not only each other, but all things in nature is the emphasis of this year's Ebune procession in Portland.

The Ebune parade celebrating "all peoples and all creatures" will take place May 5 in Portland for the 10th year, but with a new focus.

Castro, the event's director, said this year that while different dance troupes recognize the diversity of Portland's communities as they have in the past, colorful and varied plant and animal masks will celebrate the diversity in nature.

The Ebune parade and celebration have been held for several years through downtown Portland, and the finish on the Eastern Promenade has involved dance, drumming and music.

But since Castro took it over last year, she has wanted to build it into more of a colorful, multicultural community celebration. This year she recruited artists, musicians, jugglers, dancers, a New Orleans-style brass band, a drumming brigade, and dancers from West Africa, Rwanda and Brazilian groups.

"It always has been a traditional spring celebration, and it has been community inclusive. But the outreach hasn't been as broad as it could be. We want to see more of Portland's diverse cultural communities," Castro said. "There are so few events that bring all of our own culturally diverse communities together."

And Castro wants to take it a step further, not only reaching out to new cultural communities but also the plant and animal world, hoping the participants and Ebune dancers can help represent many different species.

This year free mask-making workshops will build an army of masquerade-style costumes representing animals and plants to help represent "species and creatures of land, air and sea," Castro said.

The Ebune Procession of the Ram was started in 2004 by Oscar Mokeme, the director of the Museum of African Culture in Portland. It was fashioned after the Nigerian ritual tradition that invoked Ebune, the ram symbol of fertility, the symbol of spring renewal.

From the beginning, the Maine College of Art helped populate the celebration with artists. And from the beginning, the procession, or parade, was intended as a trans-cultural celebration.

Since Castro took over the event, she has wanted it to evolve.

"I'm a dance teacher, I'm also in school full-time. But at Goddard College my course of study is a focus on performing arts for healing and social change," Castro said. "I think it's important to celebrate and recognize, and honor nature and spring. The students who dance with me, they all will embody different flowers."

EBUNE PARADE and Celebration will be held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 5 along Congress Street at the Eastern Promenade in Portland.

For more information, go to www.ebune2013.com.

JOIN A FREE mask-making workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday or from 5 to 8 p.m. on May 1. Both workshops will be at the Mayo Street Arts on 10 Mayo St. in Portland.

No cost. Donations welcome.

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: Flemingpph

 

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