Abenaki artists to present their heritage at Maritime Museum this weekend
What does it mean to be an Abenaki in today’s world? What does it mean to be an Indigenous artist? Native identity finds expression in different ways with each generation. A new exhibit at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM), Alnôbak: Wearing Our Heritage, presents wearable art, such as garments, regalia and accessories, by contemporary Abenaki artists, together with photographs and prints that reflect previous generations.
The inspiration for this special exhibit emerged during a decade-long collaboration between LCMM and the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, working with the region’s Abenaki artists, community members and tribal leaders. The Flynn Center for the Arts has added to this partnership their expertise as presenters of performing and visual arts, community programs, and educational resources.
In the quest to interpret Native art and culture from an Indigenous perspective, Vera Longtoe Sheehan combines many roles, from community member and tradition-bearer to contemporary artist and curator. “Indigenous artists no longer need to choose between traditional and contemporary art forms,” she said. “Many of us practice both, and our contemporary art is informed by tradition.” As founder and director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, Sheehan encourages and welcomes open discussion of Indigenous arts and experience among members of the Native community, and their multiple perspectives inform the selection of works and images in the exhibition.
The exhibit title provides immediate entry into that Native perspective, by starting with the word “Alnôbak.” Sheehan explains, “In the old days, Alnôba was said to mean “an Indian person” and the plural of that is Alnôbak meaning “Indian people.” Today we use these terms as a reference to our own people. So the exhibit title Alnôbak: Wearing Our Heritage is meant as People: Wearing Our Heritage.”
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