"For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children's future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it." - Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
The beautiful art of Michelle Lowden, from Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico.
While at the Hibulb Cultural Center, I came across this beautiful Lisa Telford woven basket necklace. The detail and beauty of this piece really spoke to me. It reminded me of the woven kete we have in New Zealand. I was told that small baskets like this could be used to carry prayers and wishes of the wearer.
"As a Gawa Git’ans Git’anee Haida weaver she comes from a long line of weavers including her grandmother, mother, aunt, cousins and daughter. Lisa harvests and prepares her own material, using red and yellow cedar bark and spruce root. The gathering of materials takes her hundreds of miles from home and hours of preparation that vary depending on the final product. Bark is traditionally stored for one year and then must be processed further. Her baskets may be seen in the collections of The Oregon Historical Society, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, The Heard Museum, The Portland Art Museum, and The Burke Museum."
On our last trip to New Zealand, we went to visit my Mom's cousins, Memory and Ralph Hamon in Rotorua. Uncle Ralph is a talented carver who works with both bone and pounamu (Maori Greenstone or Jade). It was our first time meeting them, but Uncle and Aunty were so gracious to us and gifted us each a beautiful taonga.
My piece is a beautiful, pounamu piece with red coloring at the bottom and a fern koru carved into it. The red in the jade gets brighter in the sunlight and is said to be the blood of our Maori people inside the stone. Ronan's piece is a small pounamu pendant with three koru's or fern leaves carved into it to represent me, my husband, and Ronan. It was carved by my nephew Dion, Uncle Ralph's grandson. Last, Greg's piece is the powerful solid Koru (Spiral) carved from whale bone.
Uncle walked over to his whale bone section, very rare and very special, and grabbed the Koru and placed it on Greg's neck and said, "This one is for you!"
We also purchased a beautiful Whale Tale Pounamu pendant because it reminded us of Paikea, and my Ngati Porou ancestry.
His work is amazing and we are so honored to wear his pieces all the time.
We love you Uncle Ralph and Aunty Memory!
"Local Artist from Rotorua shares his impressive craftsmanship through one & many of natures beautiful stones, featured next is New Zealand Greenstone "Pounamu" the traditional Tiki.
Ralph comes from a family not short of many talents in the creative arts area and his shop is located at the well known Village of "Whakarewarewa" where you may even catch him in action sculpting his next master piece."
"Tongues speak. Teeth can bite."
On our trip to Canada back in March, we stopped by 8th Generation at Pike Place Market. The shop was full of amazing art pieces created by #InspiredNatives, but I was immediately drawn to this pair of earrings designed by Louie Gong, the owner. The woman working at the shop told me that they were titled "Strength" and that Louie had designed them as a tribute to the women in his tribe because they are fierce protectors of culture and their posterity. The earrings are designed to look like a wolf's mouth just like a mother wolf would be a fierce protector of her cubs.
I really liked the explanation and could identify with it because I was always told growing up that the women of my Maori tribe, Ngati Porou, were figures of strength and participated in leadership roles and in the protecting and preservation of culture.
According to the description from his website:
This original "Strength" earring design by Louie Gong (Nooksack) developed organically from his signature art style, which often includes symbols of empowerment such as oversized teeth, tongues, and claws. Here, the hand-painted wood compliments northwest Native art traditions ,while ensuring that every single earring has a unique wood grain and paint job that can never be duplicated. This compliments the bold contemporary finish of the body and tongue, which is made of acrylic. The metal jump ring and hook have a gun metal finish.
Louie Gong (Nooksack), founder of Eighth Generation, is a self-taught artist who was raised by his grandparents in the Nooksack tribal community in northwest Washington...Louie’s unique style merges traditional Coast Salish art with influences from his mixed heritage and urban environment to create work that resonates widely across communities and cultures.
While in Vancouver, we had the opportunity to go to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia and it was an amazing experience. A person could spend hours there, but our time was limited and so was our two-year-old's attention span. The art there was amazing and it's definitely a place that I would love to go back and visit again.
Pacific Northwest Native Art
The carvings and totem poles of the Pacific Northwest Indigenous Peoples reminded me so much of the carvings and artwork of my Maori people of New Zealand that I couldn't help but feel a reverence and awe looking at these massive works of art. The detail and size of some of these pieces was amazing and the Pacific Northwestern Peoples now hold a special place in my heart.
"The exhibition features Amazonian basketry, textiles, carvings, feather works and ceramics both of everyday and of ceremonial use, representing Indigenous, Maroon and white settler communities. Today, these groups confront threats caused by political violence, mining, oil and gas exploration, industrial agriculture, forest fires, and hydroelectric plants. Challenging visitors to examine their own notions towards holistic well-being, the exhibition covers more than 100 years of unsuspected relationships between Vancouver and Amazonian peoples, ideas, and their struggles.
Rights of Nature departs from a social philosophy, known in Spanish as “buen vivir”, in which the concept of a good life proposes a holistic approach to development that intertwines notions of unity, equality, dignity, reciprocity, social and gender equality. The concept aligns directly with value systems intrinsic to Indigenous South American cultures, and serves as a rallying cry to move beyond Western ideals and practices of development and progress largely measured by profit."
-MOA, Amazonia: Rights of Nature
Layers of Influence
"From birth to death, humans are wrapped in cloth worn for survival, but more importantly, wear clothing as an external expression of their spiritual belief system, social status and political identity. This stunning exhibition will explore clothing’s inherent evidence of human ingenuity, creativity and skill, drawing from MOA’s textile collection — the largest collection in Western Canada — to display a global range of materials, production techniques and adornments across different cultures and time frames."
-MOA, Layers of Influence
This exhibit was amazing, especially since I'm currently in the business of selling clothes and very interested in fashion. Fabrics, cloths, and textiles from all over the world were on display. Each region had their own beautiful and interesting designs and materials. There were even Korowai from New Zealand on display and Tapa from the Pacific.
On our trip to Canada we drove from Vancouver to Kelowna and had to pass through a city named Mission, BC, which happened to be the home of an amazing Native American artist named Peter Wayne Gong. Greg had been following Peter on Instagram for several months and decided to reach out to him. While we were there we found out that Peter had just gotten out of the hospital after having heart bypass surgery and yet he still told us to come on by his shop.
Peter is a Coast Salish artist and member of the Squamish Nation and carves and paints various Pacific Northwest Native American pieces like bentwood boxes, rattles, masks, paddles, and more. He and his wife, Darlo, were amazing hosts and spent their time showing us Peter's studio, art pieces, and sharing stories from his culture. It was am amazing experience meeting such an inspiring artist and a generous person.
Follow Peter Wayne Gong on:
My new latest fashion obsession are my hand-beaded, custom-made, earrings by Mia Woody.
I literally have been wearing them everywhere and can't wait to get more.
I met Mia at our Lularoe Aiono Sisters pop-up party in Flagstaff, Arizona and fell in love with her work. I had been given the heart earrings prior to meeting her and loved her work already, but when I was able to see the range of styles and detail up close, my love turned into full blown obsession.
Mia Woody is a beautiful Navajo woman and her beadwork is impressive, modern, and elegant.
Everywhere I go, people are complementing me on my earrings and I feel beautiful wearing them.
Follow Mia Woody on:
“Having had the opportunity to travel abroad with our original concept, we have definitely experienced first hand the uniqueness and beauty of our Maori culture on the world stage. We enjoy having a business that promotes and celebrates our culture.”
-Soldier Rd Portraits
In 2014, my husband Greg, discovered this company called
Soldiers Rd Portraits on Instagram. He liked, how they took culturally inspired vintage looking portraits of different Maori people, but what really caught our eye was how they infused Maori culture and blended it other cultures to show a mixed-identity modern portrayal of what it means to be Maori today. Being Half-Maori and Half-Samoan, this blended cultural portrait that would pay homage to my Maori roots in a vintage portrait really appealed to me and when Greg discovered that Soldier Rd would be in L.A. over the Thanksgiving holiday he quickly went to work to contact them.
We had the pleasure of hosting them in our home and making some eternal friendships. We invited as much of our family as could come for Thanksgiving and in a very appropriate way reconnected with our indigenous roots and ancestors on that special day.
Since then, Taaniko and Vienna Nordstrom have continued to grow Soldiers Rd and do amazing things to promote Maori culture both in New Zealand and internationally. We love them and champion the work they do and will always feel a connection to them. The art they produce appeals to the eye, but more importantly connects to the soul.
“The portraits we take are a beautiful and positive portrayal of people, specifically Maori, and we’ve seen, heard and felt people’s reactions. They feel a sense of pride in themselves and in some ways, they feel closer to their tupuna.”
-Soldier Rd Portraits
This sculpture of a baby in a coconut shell is titled "Niu Born". The word "Niu" is a Polynesian word for coconut. A play on words for New Born. Coconuts float in water and travel thousands of miles. When they land on ground, they take root and flourish across the land. This sculpture represents how Polynesians have flourished throughout the world bringing their deeply rooted traditions, family values, and culture.
-Lilo Tauvao (Artist)
My husband and I saw this sculpture years ago, before we were married, attending an event promoting Polynesian Artists at Cal State Long Beach. It was a night filled with film, music, poetry, spoken word, and various art mediums, but this sculpture was so striking that it made a powerful impact on both Greg and I. Last year, around my son's first birthday, the artist (Lilo Tauvao) made the sculpture available for purchase and after reading his beautiful description the piece spoke to me so much that I knew we needed this piece in our home.
It makes me think of my father, leaving his small island home in Samoa, with a dream to one day be able to build a home for his parents. His dream took him first to New Zealand where he met a beautiful Maori Maiden, and sprouted roots by started his own family. New Zealand afforded him the opportunity to accomplish his dream and build his parents a home back in his village of Fasito'outa, Upolu, Samoa.
But my father continued to dream and like the coconut travelled thousands of miles to The United States, which he called "The Land of Milk and Honey" to afford his children greater opportunities. I'm so grateful for my immigrant parents for having the courage to sprout new roots in a country far from their island homes while having the strength to stay rooted in their traditions, family values, and culture.
I can see this piece becoming an heirloom to our children. A piece that sparks conversation and brings to our remembrance that no matter how far we travel from the islands,
the islands will always be a part of us.