The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian will launch the ‘The Ancestors Know Who We Are’ digital exhibit on June 15. The exhibit features works by six contemporary Black Indigenous women artists who address issues of race, gender, multiracial identity, and intergenerational knowledge.
The artists presented in the exhibition are:
- Rodslen Brown (1960–2020) was a basket weaver specializing in round reed, flat reed and honeysuckle baskets. She was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who advocated for citizenship for Freedman descendants like her.
- Joelle Joyner is an illustrator and graphic designer whose art is inspired by her African American heritage and Kauwets’a:ka (Meherrin Indian Nation).
- Moira Pernambuco is an environmental, street and studio portrait photographer from Guyana. His art reflects his African and Native American (Wapishana) heritage.
- Paige Pettibon is a multidisciplinary artist of black, Salish and white descent. Her artistic practice represents her diversity and amplifies the voices of people in her community.
- Monica Rickert-Bolter is a visual artist and journalist who uses traditional and digital mediums in her work. She is of Black and German descent and a citizen of the Prairie Band of the Potawatomi Nation.
- Storme Webber is a Two-Spirit poet and interdisciplinary artist from Black and Alaskan Sugpiaq (Alutiiq) women. Her work addresses ideas about history, lineage, gender, race, and sexuality, using text, performance, audio and altar installations, and archival photography.
“The women featured in this exhibit powerfully tell their stories through the art they created,” said Cynthia Chavez Lamar (San Felipe Pueblo, Hopi, Tewa, and Navajo), director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “As a museum, it is important that we share the perspectives of Indigenous women to provide insight into their diverse experiences through exhibits like this as well as our programs.
In addition to artwork, the exhibit also features artist interviews and writings by Black and Indigenous Black scholars in the fields of history, gender studies, art history, and education. Often written in the first person, these short essays address the themes of the exhibition.
“The exhibition goes beyond the idea of ’Indigenous experience’ or ‘Black experience’ to highlight how gender and mixed-race identity inform art and culture. creative expression,” said curator Anya Montiel (Mexican and Tohono O’odham descent). “These artists have unique perspectives and voices that speak to our current moment as a nation.”
The title of the exhibition is taken from a typographic print by Webber. That was her response when told she wasn’t black enough or indigenous enough.
This project received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.