Me Artsy" by Drew Haden Taylor. I read his book of essays on indigenous sexuality, "Me Sexy" earlier in the year and wrote about it here. He also wrote "Me Funny" which is on the to read shelf. I have finished two essays so far and quite appreciate the format.I also began reading "
The essay that most stuck me was by Monique Mojica who is described as an actor and playwright. From the first quote of this essay I was hooked, "Art in not just for beauty but to make our knowledge speak. Art is a defense and an action." (Argar Ricardo Arias Spit, Aligandi, Guna Yala) The essay is entitled "Verbing Art" and it speaks to the role of action art as a vital part in the maintenance of society. Mojica speaks to about the work of having to, "...remember things I never knew" and to "unlearn the fear of not knowing. The fear of being called out for not knowing culturally specific information , language, songs, dances and ceremony has been used to silence and to deauthenticate from both outside and inside the Native community."
This quote strikes me fresh today. Last night we went to a local lodge to do art therapy with Runa and then share the family meal and activity. I was simultaneously soothed to be in this safe cultural space, but also feeling that I did not belong - I was too white, too rich, too educated - not needy enough. By eating that food and being there, am I taking away resources from someone who needed them more? Am I just falling back into my historical stereotype that you are only really indigenous if you are needy?
While there, I had a very nice conversation with another lady and we talked about beading. I felt embarrassed to tell her that I learnt from a book. I can't come to their beading circle as it is during work time. I had no Kookum who could teach me. At the same time It felt good that we could talk about the coming of age ceremonies we had done for our daughters, both of whom were still on their berry fasts. It was powerful to share that moment of reclaiming. The Kookums were there. I really need to unlearn this fear of not knowing. I don't know so much. That is ok. I am learning as I can. What matters is that we learn and then pass it on.
She uses the term "buckskin ceiling" at one point, which is wonderfully evocative. Plus you can buy one for your home! Outside of a tepee, a leather ceiling seems weird to me. Mojica describes her moment of truth, when she had to decide whether to try to change theatre from inside or to support the creation of indigenous led theatre. She choose the second and situated her choice with a quote by Winona LaDuke (Anishnaabe) "We don't want a bigger piece of the pie, we want a different pie." She finished by asking what indigenous art look like if it was just art, not having to be labeled indigenous. What if indigenous art was not longer created in response to the outcomes of colonization? I guess that kind of leads us back to where we started. What will that 24th century indian look like?