The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian presents the new digital exhibition Ancestors Know Who We Are, featuring works by six contemporary Black-Indigenous women artists that address issues of race, gender, multiracial identity, and intergenerational knowledge.
Rodslen Brown (Black/Cherokee Nation, 1960–2020), Joelle Joyner (African American and Kauwets’a:ka [Meherrin] descent) Moira Pernambuco (African and Amerindian [Wapishana]), Paige Pettibon (Black, Salish, and White descent), Monica Rickert-Bolter (Prairie Band Potawatomi, Black, and German), and Storme Webber (Alaskan Sugpiaq [Alutiiq] and Black descent) are the artists in the show.
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“The women featured in this exhibition powerfully tell their stories through the art they created,” said Cynthia Chavez Lamar, director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “As a museum, it’s important we share the perspectives of Indigenous women to provide insight into their diverse experiences through exhibitions like this as well as our programs.”
In addition to the works of art, Ancestors Know Who We Are also highlights artist interviews and writings from Black and Black-Indigenous scholars in the fields of history, gender studies, art history, and education, including Kyle T. Mays (Black/Saginaw Chippewa), fari nzinga, Lilian Sparks Robinson (Black/Sicangu Lakota), and Amber Starks (Black/Muscogee Creek). Often written in the first person, these short essays address the exhibition’s themes.
“The exhibition moves beyond the idea of the ‘Native experience’ or the ‘Black experience’ to highlight how gender and mixed-race identity informs art and 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 show takes its title from a letterpress print by Storme Webber, created as a response to being told she was not Black enough or Native enough.
This project received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.
To view this digital exhibition, visit americanindian.si.edu.