Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Exploring African-Native American Identity Opens at Institute of Texan Cultures
Sept. 15 - Nov. 25, 2012
SAN ANTONIO – On September 15, 2012, the Institute of Texan Cultures will open "IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas," its first exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services, since becoming an Affiliate in 2010.
IndiVisible focuses on the seldom-viewed history and complex lives of people of dual African American and Native American ancestry. Through the themes of policy, community, creative resistance and lifeways, the exhibition tells stories of cultural integration and diffusion as well as the struggle to define and preserve identity. "IndiVisible," produced by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), remains on view through November 25 and will continue to travel to museums around the nation.
"IndiVisible is an opportunity to focus on the complexities of shared heritage and identity," said Angelica Docog, executive director of the Institute of Texan Cultures. "Looking at San Antonio and South Texas, we see a blending of cultures and life ways – not only in communities, but in families. This is the opportunity to understand our unique identities and embrace our roots. This exhibit will help paint a more complete picture of who we are as Texans."
Since the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, the lives of Native and African peoples have been closely intertwined. From pre-colonial times, they intermarried, established communities and shared their lives and traditions. But racially motivated laws oppressed and excluded them. Blended tribes worked to preserve their land and rebelled against displacement. Their survival strategies included involvement in social movements, joining together to fight oppressive conditions and regaining economic sustainability. Their unique African-Native American cultural practices through food ways, language, writing, music, dance and the visual arts have thrived.
"The topic of African-Native Americans is one that touches a great number of individuals through family histories, tribal histories and personal identities," said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), NMAI director. "We find commonalities in our shared past of genocide, alienation from our ancestral homelands, and the exhibition acknowledges the strength and resilience we recognize in one another today."
"We are proud to have contributed to this important and thoughtful exhibition," said NMAAHC director Lonnie Bunch. "African American oral tradition is full of stories about ‘Black Indians,’ with many black families claiming Indian blood."
The exhibition was curated by leading scholars, educators and community leaders including Gabrielle Tayac (Piscataway), Robert Keith Collins (African-Choctaw descent), Angela Gonzales (Hopi), Judy Kertèsz, Penny Gamble-Williams (Chappaquiddick Wampanoag) and Thunder Williams (Afro-Carib).
A 10-minute exhibition video highlights interviews with African-Native Americans from across North America who shared their perspectives.
The accompanying exhibition book, "IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas," edited by Gabrielle Tayac, features 27 essays from authors across the hemisphere sharing first-person accounts of struggle, adaptation and survival and examines such diverse subjects as contemporary art, the Cherokee Freedmen issue and the evolution of jazz and blues. The richly illustrated 256-page book is available online at www.AmericanIndian.si.edu/bookshop
Support for the exhibition was provided by an anonymous donor and the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established by an act of Congress in 2003, and will be erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Currently, during the pre-building phase, the museum is presenting exhibitions, producing publications, hosting public events and offering an array of interactive programs and educational resources at the museum on the Web at www.nmaahc.si.edu
SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C. for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu
IndiVisible continues through Nov. 25 and is included with regular admission, $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.
The Institute of Texan Cultures serves as the forum for the understanding and appreciation of Texas and Texans through research, collections, exhibits, and programs. The museum strives to become the nation’s premier institution of contemporary cultural and ethnic studies focusing on Texans and the diverse cultural communities that make Texas what it is. An agency of the Vice President for Community Services at The University of Texas at San Antonio and a Smithsonian Affiliate, the 182,000 square foot complex, featuring 45,000 square feet of exhibit space and five re-creation Texas Frontier period structures, is located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus in downtown San Antonio. Resources for multiple audiences are available at TexanCultures.com.