Continuing its tradition of inclusive and participatory programming and outreach to diverse groups, the Nickelodeon Theatre is partnering with the South Carolina Indian Affairs Commission to co-host a multi-disciplinary arts event that celebrates November as Native American Heritage Month in South Carolina.
This week’s Sisters Are Sacred event takes its name from the prominent role assumed by women in indigenous societies as preservers of culture and identity. Visual art created by Native American women in both traditional and contemporary styles will be on display in the lobby of the theater. Also included will be a ribbon skirt display and a free screening of the film Falls Around Her, followed by a panel discussion including the film’s writer and director, Darlene Naponse, who will join via Skype.
It’s the closing event following the 2019 Equity Summit: Conversations on Race and Reconciliation, a three-day event that will also host programming at the University of South Carolina and the South Carolina State Museum.
Indian Affairs Commission CEO Terence Lilly Little Water says that the participants may not be “well-known artists, and many have never shown any of their work. This is one of the reasons why this event is so crucial. South Carolina’s tribal women have had no opportunity as a collaborative to publicly display their work. Many had no idea they are artists. They create amazing work, yet consider themselves dabblers rather than creators of art, because no one has ever cast an eye upon their work and encouraged them to show it publicly.”
Little Water, the first woman and first non-chief to serve as head of the SCIAC, expresses great pride in being able to showcase the work of the participating artists “as they do something they feel is daring or even uncomfortable for them.”
“The artwork presented will be everything from oils, water colors, rough abstracts and traditional beadwork,” she continues. “It is important that we impart to dominant society that though we still retain our traditional arts, we also live in today’s world — and our contemporary art reflects that.”
Included in the exhibition are pieces by Rae Moore, the eight-year-old great-granddaughter of Catawba Chief Gilbert Blue, along with Trudith Schoblocher Dyer, who says that her art and its themes derive from the “history and beauty of Powwow Regalia. I also have the desire to communicate past and present issues of Indigenous people. Research is at the heart of [my] artistic endeavors.”
The event also makes a conscious effort to focus on issues specific to native women.
“Through the SCIAC’s Indigenous Women’s Alliance Committee, we have spent a year addressing issues and creating awareness about three major issues that affect women and families,” Little Water explains, “the epidemic of almost 6,000 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, unethical and illegal Indian child removal, and domestic violence.”
“Shining a spotlight on the often overlooked issue of missing women is always a component in anything we do,” she adds. “It is pervasive, because most of us know someone or have a female family member who is missing or murdered. We raise the issue at any public event to create awareness.”
As part of the exhibition, a piece addressing this topic will be created by Skylar Novack. There will also be what Little Water describes as a “ceremonial-like piece,” through which attendees will be invited to participate. Additionally, many of the artists will be on hand to discuss their work.
Little Water credits the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network and Nickelodeon Assistant Programming Director Omme-Salma Rahemtullah for their collaborative support.
“I was looking for a space to hold the exhibit, and [Rahemtullah] not only volunteered, she secured the film Falls Around Her, and has been involved in almost every aspect of the exhibit.”
Naponse’s movie, which premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and later won the Air Canada Audience Choice Award at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, stars Tantoo Cardinal, whose extensive resume includes featured television roles in programs such as Westworld and Outlander, as well as in feature films, such as Dances With Wolves and Wind River. Falls Around Her will be joined by a slate of six short films created by indigenous artists.
“Little Water describes Cardinal as “an iconic Native American actress whom we adore.”
“It is very validating to see her for the first time, at 68 years old, in a starring role,” the CEO posits.
What: Sisters Are Sacred
Where: Nickelodeon Theatre, 1607 Main St.
When: Saturday, Nov. 23, 1-6 p.m.
More: 803-254-8234, nickelodeon.org