#3 – Painting Our Identities

(featured drawing & painting by Lupe Krehbiel)

Warm-Up:  It’s April 16th and we all gather Saturday morning to practice our group-choreographed dance based on the images carved on ancient conch shells.

Sharing:  in the old days, the men of the city of Spiro Mounds wore ear spools, or ear gauges. They were made of clay, approximately 3 inches in diameter and sometimes covered with copper overlay.  When I had the chance to see some of these at the NMAI Cultural Resources Center, I sketched the designs out of respect for the old, old ears they had adorned.  The thing that gave me chills was that the designs were the same as what many Southeastern, Southern and Midwestern tribal nations are using now in artwork.  I shared my sketches with our group, citing the line design as an example of how simple, enduring symbols can convey identity, complex meanings, messages and/or medicine.

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Discussion:  Who Are We Now?  What Is An Urban Indian?  How Am I Connected or Not Connected With My People?  What Prejudices Do I Face Being In A Primarily Non-Native City?  How Do I Reconnect With My People?

We talked about these things.  From 12 year olds to 60+ year olds sharing frustrations, unexpected joys and how stories of how we find one another and find ourselves in spite of the city around us.

Workshop:  They’d been asked before class to think about these things – “What is your favorite color? Why? Does your clan have a color? (only if you have a clan and it is appropriate to share) Does your nation/tribe(s) have specific colors for the cardinal directions? Seasons? Coming of age? Birth? Death? War?  Rikki Kluber  expertly led us through a painting workshop exploring how to use color to express ourselves as both contemporary urban Natives with tangible links to our ancestors.  With thoughts of our new lives, the old designs and our cherished colors, this is what we came up with.  Pretty damn fantastic I have to say.




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