Nuances of Heritage: Celebrating Indigenous Cultures at Nuwu Art + Activism Center
Written and Photography By Isabel M. Castro
"Today, we celebrate our Indigenous heritages and enjoy our diverse cultures by sharing the arts. We welcome everyone to join us in this important event." Fawn Douglas, founder of Nuwu Art + Activism Center
The Native American Heritage Day Indigemart, presented by Children of the CORN – INDIGENOUS - AF, took place at the Nuwu Art Gallery + Community Center on Nov. 24. The center transformed into a haven for holiday shoppers, offering a unique experience with a wide selection of artisanal crafters, original fine artworks, musical presentations, and delectable food from popular local vendors. This grassroots event aimed to support talented indigenous visual and performing artists, as well as local businesses in the greater Las Vegas area.
Outdoors, a remarkable cross-section of artists and clothing vendors (including beautifully designed tee-shirts) were represented in celebrations of community, which included Southwest Dine Jewelry & Pottery (representing over 60 individual artists), Native Creations by Dee, Malinalli Productions, Chef Louie, as well as traditional medication crafter and tarot reader Yoshabel Shay. Hourly raffles and musical presentations added fun surprises to the gathering. Among the impressive selection of elegantly hand-crafted jewelry were dentalium shells and precious stone pieces used for traditional powwow regalia and everyday contemporary wear. Notably, earrings and necklaces displayed on a tabletop paid tribute to the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women), advocating for the recovery of disappeared and murdered native people, presented by Mariah Smith of the Rivers and Roads Beading Co. What was intriguing about these pieces was the use of a red hand, symbolizing the aggressive method (hand over mouth) to silence the screams of women being abducted for sex-trafficking purposes. Today, women use a red hand printed over the mouth as a symbol of outrage activism and revolt against these atrocities, as many of these women never return home to their families.
Upon entering the main building, a spacious and bright main gallery of the center featured impressive social-political works, including paintings, sculptures, mixed-media assemblages, and a handcrafted project of beading baby corn created by participants. Each artist's work (several dozen), whether large or small, conveyed an exceptional personal message. Some messages were deeply personal, while others, like the "border wall" installation, were socio-political in nature.
The Nuwu Art Collective, founded by activist Fawn Douglas and educator Dr. A.B. Wilkinson, along with other studio artists, is dedicated to the intersections of art, social justice, community, education, culture, identity, and place. Indigenous practices lie at the heart of their community programming, influenced by the wisdom of seven past generations and a commitment to future generations. As modern-day visionaries, the artist collective aims to help advocate for their respective communities' equity through ongoing decolonization and celebration of rich cultural heritages.
The Nuwu Art Collective provides distinctive programs and community events aimed at rejuvenating through creative exploration within their studios. They foster self-expression through various artistic mediums such as drawing, painting, sculpting, weaving, and storytelling performances. The themes explored draw inspiration from a diverse range of cultures, including Native American, Indigenous Latin American, Mexica, African American, and other cross-cultural communities. This community-building initiative actively works towards decolonization through the transformative power of the arts and education.
The Nuwu Art + Activism Center, a POC-owned establishment, endeavors to uplift all communities by strengthening cultural knowledge and identity through the arts, activism, and education. Through yearlong art classes, a speaker series, teach-ins, workshops, art exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, the center welcomes participants of all ages. Visitors, participants, volunteers, and sponsors can engage with the center by visiting nuwuart.com/contact.
Visit Nuwu Art + Activism Center, 1331 S. Maryland Parkway. Hours are 2 to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays from 12-4 pm. For more information, visit nuwuart.com.