Truth Written On My Broken Heart After 3 Sun Rotations of 13 Moons Mourning My Late Mother | When It Can’t Be Done, Do It! | Indigenous Material Culture As A Healing Practice
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;” Psalm 91:11 NIV
Recently I applied for a regional emerging artist residency in Raleigh for which I received a rejection notice. Since 1990, I have tried and failed to break into the art market in Raleigh, NC. At some point while taking care of my dying mother and teaching at Chowan, I gave up trying. I decided to try again this year, and was once again rejected. I asked for feedback but received no response.
My work and I don’t fit in a neat box that can be ticked. I’m a woman of color but I’m Toisnot Tuscarora and Florida Seminole. When people see my current work, it’s dismissed as either tie-dye or batik. I use indigo but I’m not using traditional Japanese Shibori or West African techniques. For most of my professional art career I was a clay artist until the demands of being a working caregiver overwhelmed me. Now that I’ve walked out the traditional Algonquin mourning period for my mother, I’m empowered to begin again.
Broken hearted with a body covered in scars, it doesn’t matter that I’ve been overlooked. Because against all odds I’m still here shouting in a loud voice that I’m North Carolina Toisnot Tuscarora because my grandmother couldn’t say it. Yes, I’m mixed blood but being indigenous is an ethnic cultural marker and not a skin color. My ancestors escaped Fort Neyuheru:ke and made it to the next nearest Tuscarora township. We hid out in swamps, river forests and out of the way places made sacred with our sweat, tears and blood. We found comfort and support with West Africans brought to our land in chains. I’m the black sandy soil of coastal North Carolina with veins of red clay nourished by the waters of Contentena, Neuse and Tar rivers. I possess 500 years of knowing that anything is possible.
Momma always said don’t give up even if you fail 100 times don’t give up. Try another 200 times and you’ll get it right! And in the process you’re wear down your opposition. For people who look like me, being an artist is about being viewed as half as good. Well, that means I have to put forth four times the effort to be better. Paul Arden, wrote a book entitled, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. In it he states, “Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have. The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything. Fail, fail again then fail better. If you get stuck, draw with a different pen.”
As of today, I’m trying to do the things that I’m incapable of because I believe with God’s anointing and my dying mother’s prayers I can achieve the unachievable. My strongest assets as an artist are designing, drawing, and creating color, while having persevering steadfast faith and unshakable hope.
Today I begin a new day, in a new week in the month of June. After three years of mourning, it’s time to turn grief into action. We all suffer in life, but at some point we have to decide to turn or pain into joy. As Doris Jones would say, “We have to take the bitter with the sweet!” So, I’m following what Doris, Minnie and Mat taught me, and I’ve bundled my pain and brokenness into bundles of cloth to be transformed in the indigo dye pot.