Showing posts with label shamanic art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shamanic art. Show all posts

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Helping Indigenous Artists Protect Their Work

Copyright infringement of Indigenous designs is rampant. Their artwork is one of the last things that Indigenous Peoples have left. A new Canadian Indigenous art registry aims to help artists who have struggled with questions of ownership over their designs. The registry is a joint effort between Tony Belcourt, former president of the Métis Nation of Ontario, and Mark Holmes, director of G52 Municipal Services, the service provider for the register’s technology, in consultation with Indigenous artists.

Still in the early stages of creation, the registry is designed to give artists a place to document designs, control ownership and track works as they are sold and resold. Artists would be given a registry number for each piece of work, so when designs are stolen, they can take action and have a legal document to prove registration. The responsibility to ensure authenticity in part rests with consumers to buy products that identify Indigenous artists on the label.

One such artist collective has existed in Cape Dorset since it was established in 1959. The community-owned West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Ltd. manages copyright for Indigenous artists in Nunavut, many of whom are without access to phones, bank accounts or Internet access and speak only Inuktitut. The co-operative has returned profit of more than $1-million a year for the past three years as equity back to its membership of 1,698, who each pay a one-time fee of $5 for a share. 

Creative Commons Photo by Indigenous artist David Neel, from the Kwakiutl first nation. Seen wearing a Ka'sala headress with a Grizzly Bear frontlet and canoe paddle with an Orca design, which are the crests of his family.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Five Native American Artists You Should Know

Just as music plays a vital role in Native American culture, art has a very special place as well. Native American art has developed over centuries, tracing back to cave paintings, stonework and earthenware. Art has been used as a form of expression in the Native American way of life for thousands of years. Most art was created as a symbol, such as a bird, animal or people. Many art objects are basically intended to perform a service -- for example, to act as a container or to provide a means of worship. The materials to make this artwork varied from clay, stone, feathers and fabric. Typically linked to a deep connection with spirituality and Mother Earth, Native American art comes in many different styles and forms to reflect the unique cultures of diverse tribes -- including beadwork, jewelry, weaving, basketry, pottery, carvings, drums, flutes, pipes, dolls and more. Here are five contemporary Native American artists you should know:

1. Wendy Red Star: Of Apsáalooke (Crow) affiliation, Portland-based artist Red Star (born 1981) works in a variety of media. Her art often includes clichéd representations of Native Americans, colonialism, the environment, and her own family. Her humorous approach and use of Native American images from traditional media draw the viewer into her work, while also confronting romanticized representations. She juxtaposes popular depictions of Native Americans with authentic cultural and gender identities. Her work has been described as "funny, brash, and surreal." Red Star produced artwork for the 2019 Art+Feminism Call to Action Art Commission (shown above). "Ashkaamne (matrilineal inheritance)" depicts in black and white the artist and her daughter, Beatrice Red Star Fletcher, reclining in matching striped shirts and blankets, with the words, "Apsáalooke feminist," repeated in the background. Apsáalooke inheritance is based on matrilineal descent, tracing affiliation along the mother-to-daughter line. This image represents a lineage, female empowerment, and the next generation.

2. Frank Buffalo Hyde: Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1974, Hyde was raised on his mother's Onondaga reservation and studied at the Santa Fe Art Institute and Institute of American Indian Arts. He belongs to the Onondaga Nation, Beaver Clan, and Nez Perce tribe. Before becoming a visual artist, he played in a rock band and dabbled in writing. Hyde juxtaposes 21st century pop culture images with symbols and themes from his Native American heritage. His vibrant, satirical, graphic paintings seek to dismantle stereotypes of Native American culture and replicate what he refers to as "the collective unconsciousness of the 21st century."

3. Makita Wilbur: Wilbur (born 1984), a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip peoples of coastal Washington, for the past five years has been traveling and photographing Indian Country in pursuit of one goal: To Change the Way We See Native America. Wilbur began her career in fashion and commercial work in Los Angeles after completing the prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography. Though in high demand professionally, Wilbur realized that she wanted a different path as a photographer: to create portrait art that deeply communicated people's lives and experiences.

4. Teri Greeves: Greeves (born 1970), who grew up on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, is known primarily for her use of traditional Kiowa beading, which she learned from her Kiowa grandmother. Greeves merges her cultural history with both traditional and contemporary clothing items as a commentary on being a Native woman in the modern world. She blends traditional geometric traditional Kiowa styles with figurative elements of the Shoshone, while also commenting on the derivation of American modernist abstraction from traditional Native American designs.

5. Harvey Pratt: Considered one of the leading forensic artists in the United States, Pratt (born 1941) has spent over 50 years in law enforcement, completing thousands of witness description drawings and hundreds of soft tissue reconstructions. Pratt is a Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal member and is recognized as an accomplished master Native American Indian artist. He is a self taught, multi-talented artist involved in many media; oil, acrylic, watercolor, metal, clay and wood. He has won numerous awards and was named the Red Earth 2005 Honored One. Just recently, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian announced that Pratt's Warriors' Circle of Honor was the winning design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Traditional Halibut Hook Revival

Indigenous peoples of the northwest coast of North America have been catching halibut on what are known as "wood hooks" for centuries, but very few fishermen use them today. Over time, wood hooks were replaced with off-the-shelf fishing tackle. As the hooks came out of the water, they found new homes on land as art pieces and collectors' items. In fact, many carvers started crafting hooks specifically to hang on the wall rather than above the seafloor. But now, Native carvers are trying to revive the ancient tradition by teaching people how to make and use the hooks for what they were intended, and helping them reconnect with their culture in the process. The wood hook is a rare example of an object that ties together the different domains that collectively form Alaska Native identity: mythology, art, carving, and the subsistence lifestyle. The carved imagery frequently features the shaman and animals associated with power and mythology, such as the raven, octopus, and even halibut. The shaman, who seamlessly traverses the natural and supernatural worlds, is believed to help fishermen make similarly smooth transitions from land to sea. Read more.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Engaging the Imaginal Realm

Coast Salish Spindle Whorl
Shamanism is based on the principle that the spiritual world may be contacted through the inner senses in ecstatic trance. Basically, shamanic journeying is a way of communicating with your inner or spirit self and retrieving information. Your inner self is in constant communication with all aspects of your environment, seen and unseen. You need only journey within to find answers to your questions. You should always journey with a purpose, question, or intention. After the journey, you must then interpret the meaning of your trance experience.

Imagination is our portal to the spirit world. Internal imagery enables us to perceive and connect with the inner realms. If a shaman wants to retrieve information or a lost guardian spirit, "imagining what to look for" is the first step in achieving any result. According to C. Michael Smith, author of Jung and Shamanism in Dialogue, "The shaman's journey employs the imagination, and the use of myth as inner map gives the shaman a way of imagining non-ordinary reality, so that he or she may move about intentionally in it." By consciously interacting with the inner imagery, the shaman is able to communicate with spirit guides and power animals.

Communication in non-ordinary reality is characteristically archetypal, nonverbal and nonlinear in nature. The images we see during a shamanic journey have a universal, archetypical quality. Imagery from these experiences is a combination of our imagination and information conveyed to us by the spirits. Our imagination gives the journey a "container;" which helps us to understand the messages we receive. It provides us with a way to understand and articulate the experience for ourselves and to others.  

Coast Salish Spindle Whorls

The spindle whorl is how Coast Salish women from the Pacific Northwest Coast engaged the imaginal realm. Salish women were unrivaled in their ability to produce beautiful textiles that had social and spiritual significance. Many Salish spindle whorls have sophisticated and powerful carved designs -- human, animal and geometric. The whorl was placed on a wooden spindle to add the weight needed to maintain the spinning motion, and to prevent the wool from falling off the rod as it was being spun. As the whorl turned, the designs would blur together into a swirling kaleidoscope, entrancing the spinner. This shamanic trance state was considered vital: it gave the spinner the ability to create sacred textiles imbued with spirit power.

In the spindle whorl pictured above, the human figure’s hands converge at the center hole, where the spindle shaft would pierce the whorl. It’s at this point, say Coast Salish shamans that spirit power enters and leaves the body. The small two-dimensional image inside an oval in the man’s body may represent a spirit helper who dwells within. To learn more read The Spindle Whorl: An Activity Book.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Northwest Coast Indians Box Drums

Shaman's Cedar Box Drum
Wooden box drums are a customary element to the music of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Box drums accompany singing during funerals and at the memorial potlatch ceremonies that come later. The box drum is either played upright or tilted back and is used to begin and to mark certain points within a song. Like many of the musical instruments used on the Northwest Coast, box drums can be associated with shamanic practice. Some indigenous people of the Northwest Coast utilize the drum to indicate the presence of spirits. For example, a tremolo created by rapidly striking the drum can be perceived as an audible manifestation of a spirit being's presence.

The carved cedar drum in the photo is a very old box drum belonging to the Mount Fairweather (Snail) house of the T'akdeintaan clan in Hoonah, Alaska. It commemorates the time that a T'akdeintaan shaman proved his spiritual power as a shaman. A physical representation of the shaman's spirit guide is carved into the drum as an effigy used to invoke the spirit's power. The top figure carved on the front of the drum is a bear. It's most likely the same drum depicted in geographer Aurel Krause's 1882 book, called "The Tlingit Indians" in English, and could have been carved decades before that.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dignity of Earth and Sky

She casts her peaceful gaze across the waters of the Missouri River. During the day, the South Dakota wind brushes the diamonds in her star quilt, causing blue shades to twinkle in the sunlight. At night, she stands illuminated and strong. She is Dignity. Dignity (a.k.a. Dignity of Earth & Sky) is a sculpture on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota. The 50-foot high stainless steel statue, by South Dakota artist laureate Dale Lamphere, depicts an Indigenous woman in Plains-style dress. She holds outstretched a quilt featuring 128 stainless steel blue diamond shapes designed to flutter in the wind. According to Lamphere, "Dignity represents the courage, perseverance and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota cultures in South Dakota. My intent is to have the sculpture stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that all here are sacred, and in a sacred place. My hope is that the sculpture might serve as a symbol of respect and promise for the future."

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Huichol Prayer Arrows

Huichol Indians in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico make prayer arrows to send intent of prayer to heal others. People who live near the Huichol call them "Virarica, the healing people." They are a culture based on being at "One" with the natural environment. The prayer arrow is a tool to send healing thoughts and intent for the purpose of goodness. The prayer can be used to heal anyone or anything without boundaries. The intent can be any type of healing from a cut finger to a broken heart. It can never be used for harm.

The feathers atop the prayer arrow represent the winged ones who are the messengers between man and Creator. The woven "God's Eye" in the middle represents the Nierika, which is a gateway to the spiritual realm, a realm of clarity, vision and understanding. Using the Nierika as a focal point during meditation, one's consciousness passes through a gateway to the realm of spirit, helping the seeker to find clarity regarding their life path, a solution to a specific problem or guidance in an endeavor.

To infuse the prayer arrow with healing intent, the Huichol hold the arrow close to their heart. This is what the Huichol call the "kapuri," or life force. We are all connected to this life force. After sending healing prayers into the arrow, it is stuck into the earth. Our Earth Mother then transmits the healing energy to wherever it was intended.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Creating Altars to Celebrate Beltane

Flower Offering by Jenis Kelamin
Beltane is the English name for the very ancient and very pagan Gaelic May Day festival. Beltane is one of the 'cross-quarter days', the four central holidays that make up the cycle of the seasons. There are also the 'quarter days', which are the beginnings of the seasons -- the equinoxes and the solstices. Most commonly it is held on May 1st, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. This mid-spring holiday is about birth and rebirth, when plants are coming out of the ground, and young animals are being born. It is the celebration of renewed life after the long winter, as well as a celebration of sexuality, abundance and community. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. So, an altar built on the earth's surface seems creatively perfect for this celebration, using the earth's own elements and offerings for its form and structure, to fertilize and enliven all manner of things for the coming season. Read more.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Shamanic Skin: The Art of Sacred Tattoos

Tattooed Maori
It has been estimated that 500 years ago perhaps 1,000 indigenous cultures practiced tattooing. Today, most of these groups have completely vanished from the face of the earth, and only a few continue to persist in the remote areas of Asia, South America, Africa, Melanesia, and Polynesia. Only fragments of this once rich heritage of body art remain in our modern world, but they allow us to gain a glimpse of a culture that connected tattoo, ritual, religion, myth, and nature from which indigenous tattoo culture ultimately sprang.

Why was it important for indigenous tattoo artists to create permanent designs on the body? Were they made for purely aesthetic impact or for other more sacred reasons? What deeper significance did these elements have for their makers and owners? And what did they communicate to others? Read more.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Women Artists of the Canadian Inuits

Kenojuak Ashevak, Spirit of the Raven
In sharp contrast to the Western art world where women have been largely sidelined or excluded, in the Canadian Inuit society of Cape Dorset, it is the women who are recognized as the leaders of the contemporary Inuit art movement. It is women artists who have won the most awards and accolades, and who have achieved the highest prices at auction for their artworks and received worldwide recognition. Co-operatives were created in which art could be produced in a changing economy for the Inuit people. Women artists often shared any economic gain, investing into the artistic processes in order to maintain community productivity. Many of the works contain a ritualistic and spiritual significance relating to the shamanic beliefs of the people. Read more.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Shamanic Artist Caroline Manière

"Sacred Drumming"
Born in 1968 in Dijon, France, Caroline Manière lives and works in Bourron-Marlotte (Paris region).


Oh! My many-colored drum
Ye who standeth in the forward corner!
Oh! My merry and painted drum,
Ye who standeth here!
Let thy shoulder and neck be strong.

Hark, oh hark my horse—ye female maral deer!
Hark, oh hark my horse—ye bear!
Hark, oh hark ye!

Oh, painted drum who standeth in the forward corner!
My mounts—male and female maral deer.
Be silent sonorous drum,
Skin-covered drum,
Fulfill my wishes.

Like flitting clouds, carry me
Through the lands of dusk
And below the leaden sky,
Sweep along like wind
Over the mountain peaks!

—Tuvas of Siberia

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Shamanic Artist Collin Elder

Collin Elder began painting after leaving the realm of ecological conservation, which, along with a degree in wildlife biology, has focused his artwork on our deep and often mysterious connections with the natural world.  Collin sees his work as being a transition from conservation and how we relate to the past, into the redesigning of reality, inspiring a shift in our anthropocentric vantage-point. His paintings reflect a yearning to further pursue the depths of our links with the non-human, and hopefully connect their remembering with the health of our human community. In an effort to evoke a vivid sense of direct experience, Collin paints stories of re-inspiring our reciprocity with the fluid and ever-changing natural landscape. These stories are a reflection of an ancient desire to re-unite our mental concepts with our bodily awareness, grounding them in the living world. The paintings play with the idea of looking through our investigations, classifications, sciences and technologies, into active, subjective participation with an integral, holistic and mysterious ecosystem. You can view his art online at

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nets of Being: Alex Grey's Visionary Art

"Great Net of Being" by Alex Grey
Every once in a great while an artist emerges who does more than simply reflect the social trends of the time. Such an artist is able to transcend established thinking and help us redefine ourselves and our world. Today, a growing number of art critics, philosophers, and spiritual seekers believe that they have found that vision in the art of Alex Grey. His portrayals of human beings blend anatomical exactitude with visionary depictions of universal life energy. Grey’s striking artwork leads us on the soul’s journey from material world encasement to recovery of the divinely illuminated core. In this Huffington Post interview, Grey discusses how he turned from suicidal nihilist to visionary artist, the convergence of psychedelics and Tibetan Buddhism, holding together a marriage involving two artists, live-painting with Beats Antique and the Disco Biscuits, and his unusual spiritual portrait of Obama.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Painting the Landscape of Your Soul

Damini Celebre, is a fine artist, art educator, acupuncturist, a shamanic practitioner, and now, an author. In her new book, Painting the Landscape of Your Soul: A Journey of Self Discovery, Celebre combines her two passions, creative arts and healing arts, to synthesize a unique approach to awakening your creative self. Painting the Landscape of Your Soul engages and reawakens your innate creativity as a path to self discovery. This book is a step-by-step journey of empowerment, reclaiming your inner self with paint and paper. It incorporates trusting your intuitive voice with deep, underlying principles of healing such as energy medicine and shamanism. Pablo Picasso was once quoted as saying, "The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." According to Celebre, the practice of art allows our soul's to talk to us, to be clear, and to illuminate the path of our soul's true purpose. More than a book about art, this is a much needed book about using a very innate form of expression to discover our true self. Celebre's book is available at Amazon.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Transformative Power of Shamanic Art

"Flame Swan" by Denita Benyshek
Dr. Denita Benyshek is a professional visionary artist, an internationally recognized researcher on contemporary artists as shamans, and a psychologist who provides psychotherapy and coaching services to artists and creative individuals. Dr. Benyshek recently composed an article in which she explains how contemporary artists serve as shamans and demonstrates the transformative benefits offered by art. According to Dr. Benyshek, art can provide for psychological, social, physiological, and/or spiritual needs of individuals and communities. When an individual is engaged with art (as an artist, member of the audience, or collector), art can evoke memories, make new connections, heighten awareness, discharge repressed emotions, halt patterns of repression, lead to self-discovery, create empathy with individuals or cultures, remind society of social ills needing attention, and lead to individual and societal healing. To learn more read "The Transformative Power of Shamanic Art" by Dr. Denita Benyshek.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Yup'ik Shaman Masks

For many generations the Yup'ik (real) people of Alaska have created beautifully expressive masks for their traditional dances and ceremonies. Over the long winter darkness, dances and storytelling took place in the qasgiq (communal men's house) using these masks to honor and connect to the beings that made life possible in the Arctic environment. The masks were said to have made the unseen world visible. Masked dancing was once at the heart of Yup'ik spiritual and social life. It was a bridge between the ancient and the new, the living and the dead and a person's own power and the greater powers of the unseen world.

Many of the masks were visual representations of the shaman's journeys into the spirit world and often portrayed spirit helpers. The shaman either carved the masks himself or directed their carving. Masks were carved from driftwood collected on the shores and painted with natural pigments. The symbolic meaning of color varies with the creator of the mask and the story he or she is relating. Recurring colors include red which may sometimes symbolize life, blood, or give protection to the mask's wearer; black which sometimes represents death or the afterlife; and white which sometimes can mean living or winter. Painted spots appear on many masks and even on some participants. They represent snowflakes, stars, or eyes, depending on the mask's story. As in healing, the artist's touch may have been as significant as the mark left behind.

Masks were decorated with teeth, beads, animal hides, feathers and other organic materials related to the story being portrayed. They differ in size from forehead and finger 'maskettes' to enormous constructions that dancers need external supports to perform with. Ingenious theatrical devices were created and hung from the roof of the communal house, and beautiful costumes were sewn, all as part of a complex enactment of sacred stories.

After Christian contact in the late nineteenth century, masked dancing was suppressed, and today it is not practiced as it was before in the Yup'ik villages. However, the art of making masks is once again making its way into the traditional lifestyles of the Yup'ik. The elders are trying to get the young people involved and it's still a work in progress, but the revival of mask making is a hopeful story of Yup'ik continuity. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Crafting Rawhide Rattles

Rattles are a universal, cross-cultural tool for inducing trance states and establishing connections with the spirit realm. Shamans believe that the sound of the rattle opens doors to the spirit world and attracts the attention of its inhabitants. The repetitive sound of the rattle, like that of the drum, helps induce shamanic trance. The shaking of rattles creates high-pitched frequencies that complement the low frequencies of drumbeats. The high tones of rattles resonate in the upper parts of the body and head. The low tones of drums act primarily on the abdomen, chest, and organs of balance. Rattles stimulate higher frequency nerve pathways in the cerebral cortex than do drums. This higher frequency input supplements the low frequency drumbeats, thereby boosting the total sonic effect. To craft your own rawhide rattle; view video.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Transfigurations: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey

Every once in a great while an artist emerges who does more than simply reflect the social trends of the time. Such an artist is able to transcend established thinking and help us redefine ourselves and our world. Today, a growing number of art critics, philosophers, and spiritual seekers believe that they have found that vision in the art of Alex Grey. Transfigurations, the follow-up to Grey’s Sacred Mirrors--one of the most successful art books of the 1990s--includes all of Grey’s major works completed in the following decade. His portrayals of human beings blend anatomical exactitude with visionary depictions of universal life energy. Grey’s striking artwork leads us on the soul’s journey from material world encasement to recovery of the divinely illuminated core.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coast Salish Shamanic Spindle Whorls

The spindle whorl, once an indispensable tool for aboriginal weaving, is no longer just a museum artifact, but a symbol that has been reborn as an icon to globally identify the cultural lineage of the Coast Salish people from the Pacific Northwest Coast. Salish women were unrivaled in their ability to produce beautiful textiles that had social and spiritual significance. Many Salish spindle whorls have sophisticated and powerful carved designs -- human, animal and geometric. The whorl was placed on a wooden spindle to add the weight needed to maintain the spinning motion, and to prevent the wool from falling off the rod as it was being spun. As the whorl turned, the designs would blur together into a swirling kaleidoscope, entrancing the spinner. This shamanic trance state was considered vital: it gave the spinner the ability to create sacred textiles imbued with spirit power. To learn more read The Spindle Whorl: An Activity Book Ages 9-12, and visit Coast Salish artist Susan Point's website.