First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 20

SEVEN DIRECTIONS ABOVE: In the Circumpolar Arctic, the hip-hop genre is being recontextualized from the perspectives of Northern Indigenous peoples. WE UP, a documentary film produced by the Anchorage Museum, profiles the lives and work of hip-hop artists as they explore the parallels and diversity of the Indigenous experience in their communities. The film also highlights an unprecedented Indigenous collaboration performed on the main stage of the 2018 Riddu Riđđu Indigenous folk festival in Olmmáivággi, Norway. In the profiles in WE UP, the artists speak directly about what the hip-hop genre brings to their community. From decolonization to language revitalization to self-representation and to healing, hip-hop has enriched the lives of Indigenous people across the Circumpolar Arctic. tattoo to the scarification of the bloodletting. Speaking about the experience and participants’ reactions days and even weeks after the performance, Holly said, “I got many messages thanking me for being eyes or hands that held them through this experience.” WEST: Alaska Native PLACE is an artist collective that stands for Providing Living Artists Creative Environments. The collective gets together every month with Alaska Native artists at various stages in their artistic careers and development. The gatherings are Indigenous-led and ask artists what they need to enrich their continual practice. The collective also acknowl- edges the cultural lives of its members and meets in winter so as not to interfere or compete with important subsistence activ- ities. Alaska Native PLACE is about community, learning, and shared opportunities. The group has continued to grow since its conception in 2017. Through group exhibitions, art markets, and professional development workshops, Alaska Native PLACE continues building community among Alaska Native artists living in Anchorage. They also host a statewide social media group that shares opportunities and news on contemporary Indigenous art with hundreds of Alaska Native artists. BELOW: Amber Webb is an artist from Curyung (Dillingham, Alaska). This past year Amber has been working on her Qaspeq Project, a series of artworks she created in response to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) in the United States and Canada. Her first piece, White Qaspeq, now part of the Anchorage Museum collection, is a six-by-twelve-foot qaspeq, a customary Yup’ik hooded overshirt, hand-sewn from used, white sheets on which she drew the portraits of missing and murdered Indigenous women of Alaska. Amber believes that most of her creative life has led her to this project: “I was always interested in the things that show humanity.… In this project I’ve realized that this is what I was meant to do.… There’s a reason that I drew portraits over and over again my whole life; this is why.” An important part of Amber’s project is sharing White Qaspeq with various communities. She brings her piece to conferences, gatherings, and protests to honor the memory of these women as well as bring awareness to the Indigenous women still missing or murdered in Alaska. “I was thinking, how do you change people’s minds? You don’t change their minds by giving them information, you change their minds by making them feel how you feel.” This spring Amber will be taking her second qaspeq to Aotearoa to the 23rd International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) World Conference on Health Promotion. There she will present her qaspeq, talk about MMIW in Alaska, and share her experiences throughout the project. “The most important part of the project has been the intimacy showing it—standing by it and talking with people about it. There’s so much pain, and there’s so much love, too.… People would come up to look at it and say, ‘I see you have my cousin on here.’ ” Families thanked her for including their relatives. “I was really afraid … people would see their family’s portrait and be upset, but I think the most important part was the acknowledgment … that our loss is not invisible.” CENTER: In working for the Anchorage Museum, I have strove to focus on projects that utilize the power and privilege the museum holds—and I hold as a curator—to enrich the lives of living Indigenous people. I approach my curation from the notion of potlatch. The potlatch from my Athabascan culture is a ceremony in which matrilineal societies distribute their wealth between opposite clans to maintain strength and ensure the survival of all. It involves the initial act of giving your wealth away without expectation of receiving anything in return but the 18 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM