First Americans
On now until 2 July 2023

First Americans

Tribute to indigenous strength and creativity

FIRST AMERICANS, an exhibition focusing on the experiences, resilience and creativity of the indigenous people of North America. A blend of contemporary art, photography and fashion by indigenous artists, and items from the museum’s historical collection, including clothes, drawings, weapons, jewellery, ceramics, photographs and everyday objects. 

From the moment the first European colonists arrived, the language, art, customs and religion of the indigenous communities were under threat. Yet thanks to their resilience and creativity, these communities are still flourishing today. FIRST AMERICANS includes no fewer than 60 objects, grouped on the basis of a number of themes: history, resilience and the future of the community, with an emphasis on their own interpretation.

Image-making

16th-century prints from the museum’s collection show a European and American image of the original inhabitants brimming with stereotypes. Artist Jacob Meders (Mechoopda/Maidu) has responded to these early prints in a new series of woodcuts. 

Exchange

One important symbol is the wampum, made of shell beads strung together. Under the influence of Europeans, these symbolic items were used as currency. A new wampum belt designed by Elizabeth James Perry (Wampanoag) will highlight the importance of this art form.

Self-representation

The photographs of Caro Romero (Chemehuevi) show three self-confident women surrounded by traditional objects from their culture. The images may be glossy and contemporary, but they also refer to tradition.

Activism and resilience

In the 1960s and 70s a new generation of indigenous activists drew international attention. We will be showing a unique copper belt by Greg Lewis (Pueblo or Acoma) made of copper pipes from the prison on Alcatraz Island.

Mural

FIRST AMERICANS will end with a piece outside the museum: a huge mural by Yatika Starr Fields (Osage/Cherokee/Creek-Muskogee), an impressive multicoloured artwork that combines indigenous culture, resilience and creativity.

Artists in the exhibition

Sonny Assu (b. 1975), Liǥwildaʼx̱w of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations 
Jamison Chas Banks (b. 1978), Seneca-Cayuga-Cherokee 
Nathan Begaye (1969-2010), Hopi-Navajo 
Christi Belcourt (b. 1966), Mischif (Métis)
Yatika Starr Fields (b. 1981), Osage/Cherokee/Muscogee-Creek 
Leah Mata Fragua, Northern Chumash
Jason Garcia-Okuu Pin (b.1973), Santa Clara Pueblo
Steven Paul Judd, Kiowa-Choctaw 
Fred Kabotie (1900-1986), Hopi Pueblo
Greg Lewis, Acoma Pueblo 
Jacob Meders (b.1977), Mechoopda/Maidu 
Shelley Niro (b. 1954), Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk), 
Jamie Okuma (b.1977), Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock 
Virgil Ortiz (b.1969), Cochiti Pueblo 
Elizabeth James Perry (b.1977), Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head-Aquinnah 
In Progress: Katrina Ducheneaux, Selena Rushman, Eliza Kingbird, Metahna Steeprock,  Keira Matthews,  Rozalina Hunt, Alyssia White, Anishinaabe, Leech Lake Reservation. 
Cara Romero (b.1977), Chemehuevi 
Diego Romero (b.1964), Cochiti Pueblo
Melinda Schwakhofer, Mvskoke and Austrian-American, 
Skawennati, Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk)
Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (b. 1954), Taskigi/Dine’, 
Awa Tsireh (Alfonso Roybal) (1898-1955), San Ildefonso Pueblo 
Tomas Vigil (1889-1960), Tesuque Pueblo

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