Art Exhibit Highlights Missing Indigenous Women and Girls | State and Region
MILWAUKEE (AP) — In 2016, the National Crime Information Clearinghouse reported nearly 6,000 cases of missing Native American and Alaska Native women and girls. This is according to a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute.
Researchers say the numbers could be higher.
An exhibit at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts in Milwaukee aims to put the issue in front of more people. It’s called “No More Stolen Sisters”.
Upon entering the exhibit, there is a poem on the wall titled “Poem About Disappearance” written by a former poet laureate from Wisconsin.
Valaria Tatera shows the exhibit, saying it draws attention to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, WUWM-FM reported.
Tatera is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. She is one of the curators of the exhibition and a featured artist. Teresa F. Faris, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, is the other curator.
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Tatera says she wanted to do an exhibit on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit, or MMIWG2S. “Two-Spirit” refers to a wide range of Native American and Alaska Native sexual and gender identities.
“The intention is to raise awareness of the crisis and reserve space for the MMIWG2S and their families. I think it is essential that we understand that the link between the commodification and exploitation of indigenous lands leads to the commodification and exploitation of indigenous peoples,” Tatera said.
The exhibit features Indigenous artists from across North America and United States territories and allies, and includes works made of metal, clay, mixed media and more.
Tatera shares data on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. “A study by the National Institute of Justice found that four out of five American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime, or about 84 percent. And of that 84%, half of those women have experienced sexual violence,” she says.
Tatera adds that the US Department of Justice has found that Native American women face murder rates more than 10 times the national average.
The artwork ‘No More Stolen Sisters’ fills two rooms in Walker’s Point Art Gallery. In the first room, Tatera showed a piece called Baggage.
“There’s an aboriginal woman in her regalia, printed on a black trash bag with a red modern handbag, and her face has a barcode on it,” Tatera says. The barcode could allude to the fact that Indigenous women are commodities.
Another eye-catching piece from the back of the room is a red dress on a hanger against the wall. Words are embroidered on it, some with small beads and others with thread. This is called the spider silk robe.
Tatera read part of the text: “Spiders in my brain tell stories about my women. women my belly the belly god weaves a web of text.
As you move through the lobby, artwork along the walls leads into a second space.
There are several acrylic paintings of faceless native women dressed in pageantry. According to artist Harmony Hill, they are meant to represent the grace, beauty and strength of Indigenous women beyond individual identities and tribal regions.
As you enter the second space, there is a prominent piece against the wall made up of 500 individual pieces of red tape, each stamped with the word “justice”.
It is one of Tatera’s works. She says each ribbon represents one of the missing.
I was also drawn to an installation in the corner of the room called When She Goes Missing.
The installation titled “When She Goes Missing” is in the corner of the second gallery of the No More Stolen Sisters exhibition.
“And he has three hands. One grabs another hand which is red, and the watch shows 10. Another is a hand on a face; the watch shows 11:30 a.m. And the last one is a hand with fingers crossed, blood running down the watch, and the watch says 1:00 a.m.,” says Tatera.
Tatera says she wants people who see the “No More Stolen Sisters” exhibit to know that Indigenous women are not invisible.
She says the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit is a crisis. It is a movement. And Indigenous women and girls are resilient.
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