Well, its been awhile!
My year so far has been pretty busy with entering art work and having it accepted into three exhibitions in the US. Completing and entering the work was the easy part. The challenge for me was to package, measure and weigh and then find a carrier to ship it over. Practical tasks can flummox me! I found a website called Parcel2Go.com which presents a range of options, shipping times and prices to choose from.
One of the shows was “Breaking the Silence: #MMIW #MeToo” in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in conjunction with Northeastern State University’s 47th annual Symposium on the American Indian to “Celebrate Indigenous Women.”
The exhibition aims to bridge and raise awareness about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Me Too movements. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women #MMIW is a mission among Indigenous groups across the United States and Canada to bring awareness and action to the disproportionate number of Native women who are victims of sexual violence and murder, usually perpetrated by non-Native men. #MeToo is a movement founded in recent years to create conversations surrounding sexual assault and violence and help survivors heal from experiences.
I entered two pieces into Breaking the Silence.
My Grandmother’s Shoes tells the story about how her sexual sovereignty, the culture and the very land was taken from my Muscogee Grandmother.
My Grandmother’s Shoes
Born in Indian Territory
her land was pulled out from under her feet.
Her moccasins were taken away from her at Indian School.
Rootless, ungrounded, barefoot
She walked down dusty roads.
Looking for Home.
New roads ran between boom towns
and oil fields.
Slicing through stolen land and
carving out Oklahoma.
There were too many men
with too much get rich quick oil money
and too much time
on their hands.
A pretty barefoot Muscogee girl
She found a pair of cast off red satin shoes
at the side of the road.
Cracked and cheap, too small
They pinched her feet
but made her feel like
A honky tonk Queen.
Men in fast black Buicks
stopped and offered her a ride
Once she got on that ride,
she could not get off.
She was spirited away.
– Melinda Schwakhofer, 2019
I am so proud and pleased that this work is being shown in Oklahoma. This is where the story belongs. People who are there, especially people of Native ancestry, will ‘get’ this work on the deep gut level that it has come from. In fact, My Grandmother’s Shoes was purchased in the show.
Bloodlines uses many layers including maps; text; self-portrait; my Muscogee relations as shape shifters; newspaper headlines from the 1970s and historical images of Native women. It tells of my adolescence when I was made to carry the story of my Muscogee Grandmother which was a story of sexual exploitation that had been handed down through generations. It shows how the thread of abuse can be passed between generations, and so can resilience and the will to survive.
I wrote down memories which I have carried for over 40 years.
Layers of memories, from our lifetimes and before our lifetimes, make up all of our stories. It is very powerful to tell them in any way we can – speaking, writing, making art work; and so profoundly healing for our stories to be deeply listened to and genuinely heard.