In section 3 of NAS111: Introduction Native American Studies, we focused on the effect of visual sovereignty within the areas of Native American art and media. The reading materials and discussion posts introduced the class to the dynamics of traditional-contemporary arts, including contemplations of Indigenous face tattoos on the fashion runways. In class, we explored different Indigenous artists who evoke visual sovereignty throughout their career to tell their stories.
As I prepared for one of our blog assignments that sent us out to interview Indigenous artist, I thought about my peers from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program here at Diné College. I had the pleasure to interview my friend, Andrea Sekayumptewa who graduated with her Associate of Arts in General Education and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Traditional Painting. She continues to educate the young generation through her educational and artistic field. I thought she would be perfect to chat with about art, indigenous identity, and art’s impact on indigenous communities.
Andrea is Tódich’ii’niii, born for the Hopi Sun Clan. Her paternal grandmother is Ma’ii deeshgiizhinii, and her paternal grandfather is Hopi Eagle Clan. Born in Chinle, Az, Andrea was raised in Teesto, Az. Andrea understands that her culture, traditions, and languages from both Navajo and Hopi cultures bring a balance within her life. That balance helps her to express her creativity in different medium. Her notable work in painting, drawing, and sewing recognizes her cultural influences.
I had a chance to ask Andrea to define what it means to be creating art as an Indigenous person, and how does our way of living connect thoroughly within art. We discussed how our ancestors communicate and how symbolism plays a significant role in not only our history but in many other nationalities across the world used art. This way of communication transforms our way of thinking. The way we are living art inspires each other and educating our minds through stories & songs. In the end, if we choose to, through communicating with art, we gain more knowledge about our culture.
Andrea believes that art does have the potential to build a stronger community. We, as Indigenous people, are always looking for ways to provide better resources for our people, and art seems to bring people together. We become our own resources. Events like flea markets, bazars, festivals, and workshops, make it easier for our community members to engage, socialize, exchange information from everything like cultural teachings to small business exchanges to live skills.
As a mother, it is important for Andrea to share her knowledge about art with her daughter, Carmen. It is also rewarding to share those skills with others. Andrea hosted a series of sewing workshops held at Diné College. There she taught participants a new skill set while provided a sense of community. For Andrea, art is for everyone. You can collaborate and engage by sharing ideas and thoughts and being comfortable with each other. That builds a stronger community.
Andrea and I discussed our roles as artists, teaching and educating our history to and with the next generation. We, as artists, are storytellers. We provide a concept that is transformed through a body of work, and there are a lot of thoughts explored within each piece. We share parts of ourselves with the world, establishing a connection among people who find themselves in art, and using our platforms to provide resources for our people. Together we create our future.
For more readings on Native American Art, visit the Diné College library sources:
O’Neill Schmitt, R. (2016). Navajo and Hopi art in Arizona : Continuing Traditions. History Press. (Call Number: E78.A7 N38 2016, Available from the Shiprock Campus Library)
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