This is one of the drawings I have put into the current Moretonhampstead Open Art Show at Green Hill Gallery. The theme is ‘It’s Our World’ and all three of the pieces I have submitted have to do with the world view of my Mvskoke ancestors.
It’s inspired by the story of the emergence of the Indians told by the Alabama tribe, who were members of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy. Emergence myths identify the origins of people with emergence from the earth. To make the drawing I spread and dabbed mushroom compost with my fingers and colored with pastels.
The title I have given it is ‘ēme aossetv emēkvnv’ which is Mvskoke for ‘they came out from the earth’. I am just beginning to learn to translate the titles of my artwork into Mvskoke and don’t have the tense mastered, but at least I am getting the words right. I’m also learning how to pronounce the words. My tongue stumbles over them! Here is the pronunciation of ‘ēme aossetv emēkvnv’: ími a-oss-íta em-ikaná.
At the private view last Friday night, I told people about the culture and worldview of my ancestors. It felt good to speak words that haven’t been spoken in my bloodline for about 100 years. My Dad never learned how to speak Mvskoke, although he could understand it. His mother, Mattie Davis, died from tuberculosis in 1928. She was 25 years old and he was 9 years old. I know next to nothing about her, but I have the feeling that she lived a short, hard life. She would have gone to school at a time when Native Americans were actively discouraged from speaking their mother tongue and forced to speak English.
Anyhow, here is the story:
Many Indians once lived far down in the earth where they had been
made out of clay. Half of them decided to come up and made the ascent.
As it was dark where they were they procured pitch pine torches.
They camped four times on the journey and then came out at noon into the
bright sunshine. They were very glad to get out and find a good place on
the firm ground in which to camp.
From the book Creation Myths and Legends of the Creek Indians by Bill Grantham.
The entire book is available to read online here.