Indigenous Art and Organizing
In the summer of 2018, Young Women United (YWU) brought together eleven Indigenous women and femmes and two Indigenous New Mexico-based artists, Nani Chacon and Rose B. Simpson, for an Art and Organizing Institute in Albuquerque, NM.
YWU sought participants who were open and willing to share their experiences and ideas on a wide range of pregnancy-related issues and care that may be part of people’s lives, including fertility, miscarriage, abortion, prenatal, labor, postpartum care, and more. Participants were invited to share their insight into what shifts are needed for communities to be able to access safe and supportive pregnancy care they may need.
We gathered for seven weeks in a series of conversations, workshops, and art-making sessions. The women, femmes, and people were diverse in age, tribe, perspectives, and experiences. However, they were united in sharing their unique stories. Some participants were mothers, some were not, and some experienced parts of pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
The stories that unfolded were tremendously heartfelt and real. They were sacred and living—and they traced back to ancestors, great grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers. The participants cried, laughed, cried and laughed some more. In those tears of sadness and joy, there was a sense of healing and movement towards honest conversations about the complexities of each one’s own journey—the journey of young women and femmes to elders, from the first period to a miscarriage to motherhood.
After weeks of learning and exploring together, Nani and Rose put together ideas for large-scale public art pieces based on the messages the participants wanted to share with their communities. “We Are the Ancient Future,” “Healing Happens Where Our Pregnancy Stories Meet,” and “What is a ‘good mom’? It’s complicated” all became the heart of art pieces created by and for Indigenous women, femmes, and communities. Billboards of the art pieces are placed in the four directions in proximity to Indigenous communities throughout New Mexico. Indigenous graphic designer JayCee Beyale collaborated with Nani, Rose, and YWU to bring the designs to life.
(Text written by participant Micha Bitsinnie)
Participating leaders: Alicia Angel, Tina Archuleta, Micha Bitsinnie, Angel Charley, Dezbah Evans, Niquita LeValdo, Audrey Lucero, Nicole Martin, Cynthia Sandia, Malisha Toledo, and Julia Wall.
Nani Chacon: participating artist and Lead Facilitator
Rose B. Simpson: participating artist
JayCee Beyale: artist/designer