Earlier this year I completed Road to Oklahoma, which I have been working on for about four years. It has evolved as I have learned about and got in touch with my Muscogee ancestry and heritage.
I entered it in the 48th Annual Trail of Tears At Show in Talequah, Oklahoma. The Trail of Tears Art Show began in 1972 with the intent to create a venue where diverse art forms can be used to exhibit American Indian heritage. TOTAS s the longest-running American Indian art show in Oklahoma. I first heard about this show in 2016 and it was my dream to have a piece of artwork juried in to it. I’ve shown and sold my work in the UK, but I feel that when Native people view my work, that it is ‘gotten’ at the deep level that it is made from.
Road to Oklahoma – Artist’s Statement
A road is just a road until you travel upon it. Then it becomes part of you. This road began with the Missisipian peoples, ancestors of my tribe, the Muscogee (Creek). Some of their motifs are part of this piece. Later, the Mvskoke were forced from their river towns – represented here by beads – along the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory, later Oklahoma. For my dad, the road promised escape from the traumas of the past to a new life. But, however far he travelled, the trauma travelled with him. Further down the road, he passed it on to me.
At the bottom of the piece, I added a bundle of red sticks to honor my Upper Creek ancestors and my dad, Frank Charles Schwakhofer who was born in a time and place where he could not be Mvskoke.
I also made and added the Mississippian Hand, originally made from mica, from Angelina fibres. My ancestors believed that our newly dead gathered in a hand shaped constellation of stars, prior to joining our ancestors on the Milky Way.
I am very, very proud that Road to Oklahoma won two prizes in this year’s Trail of Tears Art Show. First place in it’s category and I won an Emerging Artist Award. 🙂
Next year is 2020, the centenary year of my dad’s birth. I have been longing to go to Oklahoma for several years, to put my feet on the ground where my dad and ancestors lived and to re-connect with my people, the Muscogee (Creek). I have had six pieces of artwork in Oklahoma over the past year. I feel that these are emissaries and paving the way for me. I spoke at a conference in Norwich this summer and met a few Southeastern Native artists, including two Muscogee (Creeks). It feels great to be connected to some people in advance of my journey there. I will be going Home.