Northern Spark, the annual art festival, opens June 12th. The theme this year is Alchemy, which has different meanings. One of which is the process of transformation, creation, or combination. One of the opening public art pieces is called Braiding Our Stories Together. Reporter Leah Lemm has more.
Northern Spark is taking on a new form this year. Instead of the two-night gathering, the art festival will take place in person over two weeks in St. Paul. There are also online aspects and outreach through the postal service. The opening weekend event includes a virtual and public art storytelling project called Braiding Our Stories Together on Sunday, June 13th.
“Boozhoo, my name is Reyna Day. So there’s two main parts of the Braiding our Stories project.”
Reyna Day is Mexica and Anishinaabe from the Bois Forte Band. And is co-leading the interactive and intergenerational public art display with Ruti Mejia.
“And so we were pulled into this project specifically as youth organizers.” said Day.
Reyna Day and Ruti Mejia are both youth organizers of the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center. And they’re on the International Indigenous Youth Council, Twin Cities Chapter. Reyna explains Braiding Our Stories Together takes on two forms.
“That’s going to be the virtual aspect, which is going to be the revealing of the storytelling portion, which was led by the youth and kind of created by the youth. And then also the other aspect, which is going to be the public display. So the public display will be there throughout the end of the summer. And Ham Park is like, it’s a free park. And so you can just go in there anytime,” said Day.
“The art piece is a large 3D representation of stories, teachings, poems, and songs passed down through generations. It can be found at [inaudible 00:01:56] also known as Ham Park, which is along the Seventh Street cultural corridor on St. Paul’s Eastside. Braiding Our Stories Together was created with artist and elder Gustavo Boada.
“My name is Gustavo Boada from Peru.”
Gustavo helped bring the artistic ideas into existence.
“And then I say, wow, we can work together and do this project that you have already in mind. And guess just tell me. I can help you to decide what to do and how to do it,” said Boada.
Together, they thoughtfully went through ideas and landed on what ultimately was created.
“I usually do puppetry, but I make big things and also three-dimensional murals and big sculptures. So I told her the options and they finally choose to make something three-dimensional,” said Boada.
And the sculpture of the person with braids is larger than life. Formed with natural objects, papier-mache and more, Reyna Day talks about how it’s more than what meets the eye.
“You’ll see a figure, and then you’re going to see two braids. And each of these braids are 25 feet. And the reason that we chose braids was, in indigenous culture, like, we view hair to be very significant. And we view our hair to carry our stories, our essences, our spirits. And so as you go through the braid, you’re going to be seeing just the beautiful decorations on the braid, but you’re also going to be seeing QR codes,” said Day.
These QR codes are going to take you to a website. And these websites are going to be split. The website’s going to be split into different portions, into three portions, which are going to be songs, stories, and poems.
“For me the braids are very important part of this project. And secondly, I think it has so much love put in this work. One I recall is that the braids are the weaving, the connection, the blending of all the roots. The braids are the roots from the ground, but become in a hair in the braid also. So that metaphor for me, it was so amazing,” said Boada.
More details about Braiding Our Stories Together and Northern Spark can be found online at 2021.northernspark.org.
If you miss the virtual event on June 13th, it can be found on the Facebook pages of Indigenous Roots and the International Indigenous Youth Council, Twin Cities chapter.
For Minnesota Native News. I’m Leah Lemm.