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Rwandese community brings traditional harvest festival to Maine for the first time

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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Amisa Umuhoza, left, and Denyse Umuraza dance while balancing woven baskets on their heads at the Riverton Community Center in Portland. The dance was part of an elaborate, choreographed performance representing the sowing, reaping, blessing, and sharing of the harvest.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Christelle Mutoniwase, standing, prepares Emanuel Lukera to play the ceremonial role of the king in a song and dance performance. The choreographed performance represented different aspects of the harvest, and was a central part of the celebration.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Marie and Charles Kalisa, standing, with Josee Rwagasana (seated from left), and Liesse and Mario Akimana at the Umuganura celebration in Portland. Umuganura, or 'First Fruits', is a traditional Rwandan festival marking the beginning of the harvest season.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Maurice Habimfura, left, helps Vincent Mugabe put on a traditional robe before a song and dance performance. The event was the result of weeks of planning and practice.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Clarisse Karasira sings at the First Fruits celebration in Portland. The event featured singing and dancing from different regional cultures in Rwanda.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
The event drew over 100 people from southern Maine's Rwandese community to the Riverton Community Center in Portland.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Ismael Hategekimana, left, and Maurice Habimfura play drums during the Umuganura celebration. The holiday is a time for celebrating the harvest, giving thanks, and uplifting Rwandan culture.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Emanuel Lukera played the role of a king during the celebration. The role involved blessing both agricultural implements and the fruits of the harvest.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Emanuel Lukera, playing the role of the king, blesses two hoes held by Maurice Habimfura. The Umuganura festival has been celebrated in Rwanda for hundreds of years.
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Ari Snider
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The celebration featured traditional music and dancing from various regional Rwandan cultures.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Apollinaire Munyaneza, president of the Rwandese Community Association of Maine, takes a video on his phone during the dance performance. The event was also livestreamed to viewers all over the world - including some who tuned in from Rwanda.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
A Rwandan flag draped over a lectern at the Riverton Community Center.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
The First Fruits celebration brought together Rwandese community members of all ages.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Community members clap along during the performance. The event drew over 100 people.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Apollinaire Munyaneza, president of the Rwandese Community Association of Maine, speaks at the Umuganura celebration in Portland. Munyaneza, who teaches chemistry at Portland High School, urged community members to keep Rwandan culture alive in Maine, and to be exemplary citizens in their new home.
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Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Ismael Hategekimana, left, and Amisa Umuhoza. Community president Apollinaire Munyaneza said the event took a lot of time and energy to put on, and he said it was a reflection of how engaged and active the Rwandese Community of Maine is.