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"Learning How to Fly"

Public Intervention, Installation, Video, Photography, Performance, Workshop and Writing

A project started in 2016 that is centered around notions of belonging and acceptance as they relate to (tribal) identity and the process of governmental recognition or oppression of minority groups.

 

Initially focused on my mother’s identity as a Lumbee Tribeswoman with no legal acknowledgment, the project has evolved into a narrative-building and research-based work concentrated on discovering my ancestral history and making myself receptive to the journey of introspection.

 

This project includes many iterations taking place in different parts of the world, topics include working with ancestors, homeland and identity, exploring different ways of engaging with land, and designing workshops rooted in Indigenous knowledge with children.

Making Ourselves Known and Unknown

"Making Ourselves Known and Unknown" is a short essay with family photographs that are featured on an online platform titled "Njihova tkanja" is for the exchange of ideas and thoughts about woman’s self-organization and woman’s maturing process under given circumstances. 

I don’t know much about my mother, Helen Marie Jacob and even less about my mother’s mother, Hannah Lowery. My mother took her last breath on this earth in Spring 2000, I was 29 years old. My mother’s mother took hers in summer of 1978, I was 7 years old. They both lived the exact number of years. The most intimate conversation I had with my mom was a remark she made nonchalantly “Never to marry for money, marry for love.” I regret not digging deeper into this remark, but at the time I was so sure of myself never to marry, "I said you don’t need to worry about that". Only later after she left us, I realized how remarkable that comment was. It gave so much insight about the relationship she had with my father. All the days and nights lying in the bed with headaches meant so much more. The memories of my mother’s mother are more based around feeling and her appearance. I was terrified of her. I don’t recall any loving encounters. What I do remember, her not being of this world. Living between two worlds one of for the known and one for the unknown. Now I find it incredible at such a young age I could make that observation. As children the veil is often thin between these two worlds, and I was clearly able to see. I could not understand her language, a mix of deep southern and Lumbee speak. Nor I could understand how she lived in a trailer in the backwoods of a swamp. Her body, unlike my mothers, was not the shape of a woman, but rather strong and without curves. A thick waist and calves with gnarly hands. Her dark skin wrinkled like a prune in the sun. The day my mom took her last breath, I was with her. I knew on that day it was her last with us and made a point to stay by her side. My memory does not serve me well of our last words. When she reached past the point of speaking, all was spoken with her eyes. I told her it was time and I promised we would be fine. Through her eyes, I was talking to myself, our breadth, our skin, our sound, our touch, our heart a mirror. From this day onward the mirror is my reminder of who I am. In death, my mother’s mother is my inner fire, who illuminates darkness and is as expansive as a starry, night sky. Always in the forefront of all my life experiences that have left a deep imprint. Her fire propels me forward giving momentum and capacity to show up and to do the work. In my activist work, my artistic practice, ancestral work, and paranormal events. Only in death, I have come to know the unknown that has integrated through me to be me. Disclaimer: This writing has been made possible due to a head injury deleting all attachments, identities and belief systems. All women in the photos are members of the Lumbee Nation what is currently known as North Carolina in America.

Lessons from an Ancient Tree and a Dolman

This is a short essay with photographs published in a printed magazine called Red Door, created while in residency at FUNDACIÒN FLAQUER in Girona, Spain. 

On the land of Masia del Flaquer, in Girona, Spain. I spent mornings with an ancient tree and evenings with a dolmen.  Within the tree, I accessed a portal of wisdom that lives deep inside us all, in which we spend a lifetime trying to remember. Together, we pondered the ideas of mutual understanding, harmonious relationship, reciprocity, the balance of give and take, and the art of remembering. Within the dolmen, I connected to the essence of being, joy, love, and compassion. We wrote together instructions on how to live; 'Sing the songs, play the drums, use your voice, love without fear, laugh (it holds vibration), trust (stop asking for validation), be active and move the body, listen (really listen), join hands and dance, love thy body, connect to the earth, connect to the sky, eat well and live well, share, write and co-create, build communities.' In conversation we questioned; 'How do we connect to the land?’ 'How do we connect to someone else’s land?’ 'What lessons can we learn?’ The importance of knowing in order to know the other. On the day my ancestors surrounded me on the island of the tree, I was reminded that I am a survivor and a warrior. I am the tree, and the earth supports me, and my roots dig down deep. In my mind’s eye, I see the season change, the water filling the low places with the dead fallen leaves for they cycle to begin again, for I too, begin again, again and again.

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An Exercise in Speaking to our Ancestors

"An Excercise in Speaking with Our Ancestors" is a public intervention and installation on having relationships with our ancestors as a way for us to connect to our past and connect to our future selves. A highlight of Artsakh Fest is the first ever contemporary art festival in Stepanakert, Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh).

During the festival I set up a table at the entrance of the theater and asked visitors to write a private message on a piece of paper to an ancestor of the land, of their trade or to their family lineage. Then together I showed them how to fold the paper into a paper airplane and asked them to set if free and let it fly. The following day I collected all the paper airplanes and added it to an installation made in one of the rooms of the theater. I did not read the paper airplanes and were left behind in the theater to remain as an ancestral homage. 
 

Working with our ancestors connects us to our deeper selves, what our values are and our intentions. It gives us opportunity to ask for guidance, love and direction and bridges the gap between the past and the present. Working with our ancestors can provide source of growth and reclamation of who we are. Having this dialogue reminds us we are all interconnected. They speak through us but we also speak to them in the actions that we do, what we say, how we think and how we see ourselves in the world. We have the power to command, create and imagine ourselves to be.

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Home is Where You Lay Your Head

"Home is Where you Lay Your Head" is a public engagement project that focuses on stories of identity and homeland that includes an installation that features my photography. 

I provide an intimate space (a temporary shelter, a home away from home) to share my experiences around identity and home from the perspective of a mixed-race Indigenous person, coming to terms with their relationship with their people while healing the past and forging a new identity for the future.

 

This shelter, inspired by Standing Rock while living in a tent at the camps, also parallels and references the refugee and migrant crisis happening all over the world in the present day.

My focus is on indigenous people denied identity, civic rights, land, traditional culture preservation, language, and opportunity from a hegemonic oppressor.

 

Through photographs taken over a span of seven years, my conversation will include the B’doul Tribe of Petra, Jordan who were forced to abandon their semi-nomadic life for the nearby settlement of Umm Sayhoun. Social interrogations also commented on are the Palestinian struggle for statehood, the impact of neo-colonialism on Greenlandic culture and identity post-establishment of Home Rule, and the historic gathering of tribes and allies at Standing Rock, North Dakota to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline. Lastly, I will touch upon my people, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and their fight for recognition by the U.S. Government.

 

This dialogue through photographic images with visitors will be an exercise in self-expression, which will strengthen and empower my voice. It is my aim that such a gesture will engage others to share their own stories around home and identity. It will also provide an opportunity to inspire new work based around these exchanges and topics. 

This project had two iterations in Brooklyn NY. in 2016. Featured project at Red Hook Open Studios and Smack Mellon.

The Origin of Water, the Origin of a People

This poetic diary highlights the Indigenous relationship to water in Greenland (Ilulissat), in North Carolina (with my tribe the Lumbee Nation), and Standing Rock in North Dakota. Click on link to view video.

"Like water we spread deep and broad. Like water we travel quick from the North to the South, East to the West. Like water we cannot be contained." ​ "The Sun takes us. We join together as clouds and shift with the wind. We concentrate into ice and float on the sea, with no beginning and no end." ​ "When we are invisible we still exist. When we are in mass we cannot be ignored. Our weight is far greater than what appears on our surface." ​ "Together we move mountains. Welcome to the great expansion."