This Saturday, April 11, is Bowdoin’s second annual Wabanaki Arts Festival. Twenty-five Wabanki artisans will exhibit and sell their work and fancy baskets, birchbark works, jewelry, walking and talking sticks, and other creations. In addition, there will be drumming, singing, and storytelling.
If you’ve never experienced a Wabanaki gathering, go. These are wonderful family events, with opportunities to learn about the culture, crafts, and heritage of Maine’s four Native American tribes: Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot.
I’ve been a basket fan for nearly 20 years, and I’m pleased to see these talented artisans get the recognition, and more recently price, that they deserve. While master artisans’s works comman three-figure prices, those by up-and-coming artists and apprentices are more in keeping with buyers on a budget. But hey, it costs nothing to look, admire, ooh and ahh, and best of all, ask questions.
Beyond baskets and other crafts, there’s traditional entertainment, including:
• Penobscot tribal elder Watie Akin performing traditional songs he has been collecting from the four tribal communities.
• the Alamoosic Lake Singers beating both traditional and contemporary powwow music on their drums.
And yes, it’s all free and takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Bowdoin College’s David Saul Smith Union, in Brunswick. Hey, and while you’re there, check out the Peary exhibits and the Art Museum, which also are free.
And here’s a heads-up: The next good opportunity to experience Wabanaki culture is the annual Native American Festival in Bar Harbor, held at the College of the Atlantic, Saturday, July 11. That one is especially popular with collectors, so if you’re in the market for a basket, go early.