Alliance for California Traditional Arts
February 8, 2021

For 21 years the Alliance for California Traditional Arts’ (ACTA’s) Apprenticeship Program has supported California’s cultural traditions with 385 contracts to outstanding traditional artists and practitioners.

Now entering its 21st cycle, ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program encourages the continuity of the state’s living cultural heritage by contracting exemplary mentor artists to offer intensive training and mentorship to skilled apprentices. Contracts of $3,000 are made with California-based mentor artists to cover their fees, supplies, and, if safe, their travel. Participants work closely with ACTA staff to develop and document the apprenticeships, culminating in opportunities to share results of their work with the public.

The 2021 Apprenticeship Program cohort of 42 artists (21 pairs) represents California’s breadth of cultural diversity and intergenerational learning. The pairs range from mentor artists in their late 70s to an 11-year old apprentice, spanning from San Diego to Humboldt Counties. These apprenticeships continue thriving traditions, including indigenous California cultural practices like Karuk women’s ceremonial dress making, the traditional foodways of the Ohlone table ceremony, handgame songs of the Maidu tradition, and Dunlap Mono basketry. Others celebrate traditions which have taken root in California, and originally hail from the American South, or West Africa, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Afghanistan, Syria, and indigenous New Zealand.

ACTA is pleased to announce the 21 statewide artist pairs contracted in the 2021 Apprenticeship Program:

Najite Agindotan (R; photo courtesy of the artist) and Metebrafor Agindotan (R; photo by Jamie Milner).

Najite Agindotan  + Metebrafor Agindotan

Los Angeles

Najite Agindotan is working with apprentice Metebrafor Agindotan, focusing on the Rhythms of Ejo Masquerade; a community mask dance of unity, blessings, giving thanks and honoring ancestors.


L: Ambika Ramadurai with Srinath Bala. R: Ambika Ramadurai plays the mridangam. Photos courtesy of the artists.

Srinath Bala + Ambika Ramadurai

San Jose

Srinath Bala will be training his apprentice Ambika Ramadurai in South Indian Carnatic Percussion, including the Mridangam, Ghatam and Kanjira.


Surabhi Bharadwaj (L; photo by Shaale) and Vedya Spurthi Konda (R; photo by David Gaylord).

Surabhi Bharadwaj + Vedya Spurthi Konda

Dublin + San Jose

Surabhi Bharadwajwill be working with her apprentice Vedya Konda on mastering the classical Indian dance form of Bharata Nrityam, delving into the charis and karanas, movements described in the Natya Shastra, and understanding how they are reflected in the steps of Kuchipudi. 


Lal Singh Bhatti (L; photo courtesy of the artist) and Joti Singh (R; photo b Crystal Birns).

Lal Singh Bhatti + Joti Singh

Stockton + San Francisco

Apprentice Joti Singh will be working with mentor artist Lal Singh Bhatti in Punjabi Bhangra music and dance, including various techniques of the dhol.


Charya Burt (L) and Victoria Ung (R). Photo courtesy of the artists.

Charya Burt + Victoria Ung

Windsor + Orange

Master dancer and practitioner Charya Burt returns to the program to work with apprentice Victoria Ung in Classical Cambodian Dance.Victoria will study the female role (i.e. princess, goddess), one of the four roles that exist in the Khmer classical dance repertory. 


Amelia Butler (L) and Ana Dowden (R). Photos courtesy of the artists.

Amelia Butler (Māori from Ngātiwai, Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Awa tribes) + Ana Dowden (Māori from Ngāti Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa and Ngāti Porou tribes and Samoan from Fasito’outa)

Burbank + Wildomar

Amelia Butler will be working with apprentice Ana Dowden in learning the traditional art form of Māori Kapa Haka, including long poi and short poi, haka (traditional war dance), tītī tōrea (stick game), waiata ā-ringa (action song), waiata (song) and mōteatea (lament).


Faye Carol (L; photo by Kito Kamili) and James Wiley (R; photo by Joe Warner).

Faye Carol  + James Wiley

Berkeley + Oakland

Blues musician Faye Carol will be working with apprentice James Wiley in covering a thorough study of American blues music, including the stylistic nuances of regional styles from Mississippi, Chicago, Kansas City, Oakland, Texas, and New Orleans.


Bernard Ellorin (L) and Rogelle Zamora (R). Photo by Romel Zamora.

Bernard Ellorin + Rogelle Zamora

San Diego + Fontana

Returning mentor artist Bernard Ellorin will be working with apprentice Rogelle Zamora in Tagunggu’ (gong ensemble) music, namely from the Sama and Tausug ethnic groups located in the Sulu Archipelago, Philippines.


L: Quirina gathering elderberry (photo courtesy the artist). R: Apprentice Deborah Morrillo (L) and Quirina (R; photo courtesy the artists).

Quirina Geary (Ohlone) + Deborah Morillo (yaktitʸutitʸu yaktiłhini Northern Chumash, Ohlone)

Clearlake Oaks + San Jose

Quirina Geary will be working with Deborah Morillo to transfer the traditional ecological knowledge and foodways essential to hosting a traditional Ohlone table ceremony. 


Mamady Kourouma (L; photo by Katrina Koelewyn/Campus Newspaper) and Donte McDaniel (R; photo courtesy of the artist).

Mamady Kourouma  + Donte McDaniel

Three Rivers + Clovis

Mamady Kourouma will be passing on the rhythms of his people to Donte McDaniel to cultivate a strong foundation in West African Traditional Djembe drumming, a form of drumming that is a part of the larger Mandeng (Mandingue) culture and dates back over 400 years.


Erik Lee (L; photo by Edward Miller) and Jeremy Brooks (R; photo by Duane Lynn).

Erik Lee  + Jeremy Brooks

Oakland + Berkeley

Erik Lee will be working with his long-time student and apprentice Jeremy Brooks, to deepen his practice in liturgical worship or praise dance, which illustrates how spiritual beliefs and practices are retained in dance.


Kiazi Malonga (L; photo by Mood-ology) and Rumi Hawthorne-Vaughan (R; photo courtesy of the artist).

Kiazi Malonga + Rumi Hawthorne-Vaughan


Returning mentor artist Kiazi Malonga will be working this year with eleven-year old returning apprentice Rumi Hawthorne-Vaughan in Congolese Ngoma drumming.  They will study the technical aspects of drumming, pushing toward mastery of basic sounds and variations.


Mandy Macias (L) and Marvin Marine (R; photo courtesy of the artists).

Marvin Marine (Mountain Maidu) + Mandy Macias (Mountain Maidu)

Sonora + Fresno

Marvin will work with his daughter and 2012 ACTA mentor artist Mandy Macias on handgame songs of the Maidu tradition, using Marvin’s archival recordings and photos to prompt his memories of people, songs and events related to handgame play and songs.


Gladys McKinney (L) and Shonnie Bear (R; photos courtesy of the artists).

Gladys McKinney (Dunlap Band Mono) + Shonnie Bear (Dunlap Band Mono)


Master basket weaver Gladys McKinney returns to the program to work with apprentice Shonnie Bear, a fellow member of the Dunlap Band of Mono Tribe, in the art of Dunlap Mono basketry


Anil Natyaveda (L; photo courtesy of purpleganesh) and Anil with Lea Vincent (R; photo courtesy of the artists).

Anil Natyaveda + Leah Vincent

Los Angeles + Huntington Park

Anil Natyaveda will be working with his long-time apprentice Leah Vincent in deepening her practice in the Indian martial art of Kalari ppayattu, or Kalari. This will include wooden weapon and hand combat, animal movements, breathing techniques, and healing practices.


Yen Nguyen (L; photo courtesy of the artist) and Khoi Truong (R; photo courtesy of the artist).

Yen Nguyen + Khoi Truong

San Jose + San Francisco

Master musician in Vietnamese opera, or Cải lương, Yen Nguyen will be working with apprentice Khoi Truong in passing down melodies and roles that are foundational to the traditional art form.


Tara Pandeya (photos by Daniel Bahmani)

Tara Pandeya + Krystle A.

San Anselmo + Oakland

Former ACTA apprentice Tara Pandeya returns this year to mentor Krystle A. in Afghan dance, Sawal Jawab call and response


Farah Yasmeen Shaikh (L; photo by Ammar Zaidi) and Athena Nair (R; photo by Rama Sivamani).

Farah Yasmeen Shaikh + Athena Nair

Menlo Park + Palo Alto

Both a former apprentice and mentor artist, Farah Yasmeen Shaikh, returns to the program work with new apprentice Athena Nair in North Indian Kathak dance. The focus of the apprenticeship is to prepare Athena to step into the role of solo performer, choreographer, and educator.


Fode Sissoko (L) and Makeda Kumasi (R; photo courtesy of the artists).

Fode Sissoko + Makeda Kumasi

Los Angeles + San Bernardino

Fode Sissoko, a master of the West African kora in Mande music, will be training his apprentice, Makeda Kumasi in traditional rhythms and techniques of the kora, including instrument tuning and maintenance, plucking styles, increasing finger speed, and ear training.


L: Ty’ithreeha Allen-Colegrove (L) and Kapoon Tripp. R: Kapoon and Ty’ithreeha. Photos courtesy of the artists.

Kapoon Tripp (Karuk/Yurok) + Ty’ithreeha Allen-Colegrove (Karuk/Yurok)

Blue Lake

In preparation for a family members’ Ihuk Ceremony (a Karuk Young Women’s Puberty Ceremony), Kapoon Tripp and her niece and apprentice Tyithreeha Allen will be completing a shell dress to be used in the ceremony, as part of their apprenticeship in Karuk Women’s Ceremonial Dress Making.


Nicole Hoffschneider (L) and Faisal Zedan (R; photo courtesy of the artists).

Faisal Zedan + Nicole Hoffschneider

El Cerrito + Oakland

Master percussionist Faisal Zedan returns to the program to train new apprentice Nicole Hoffschneider in Arabic Frame Drumming, and may touch on other Arabic percussion instruments including the derbekki.

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