Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag)
The BU Arts Initiative is pleased to welcome Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) to discuss and demonstrate her traditional art. This event is part of the Indigenous Voices in the Americas Series.
The following event is free & open to the public.
Seeing Turtle Island Through An Artist Lens: Reviving Connections with the Natural Environment
Monday, May 2nd, 2022 at 5:00 PM /Terrace Lounge (2nd Floor), George Sherman Union- 775 Commonwealth Ave. (Register here)
Elizabeth makes distinctively robust and textured wampum shell jewelry, porcupine quillwork, and northeastern twined textiles. She creates substantial heirloom quality adornment items reflecting her Algonquian diplomatic heritage. In cultivating many of the plants used in natural dyes at her home in the Southcoast area of Massachusetts, her gardens serve to seed the suburbs with important Native species. The rest are wild harvested in a sustainable way.
Elizabeth has two pieces of work on view through May 2022 on the 2nd floor landing of the George Sherman Union – 775 Commonwealth Ave.
Paper, watercolor, graphite
The Southern New England landmass represented as a bear highlights the Wampanoag attitude to the earth; our homelands and homewaters as a living beings worthy of our deep respect and responsible stewardship. Native relationship to the northeast is reclaimed by featuring some of the original Native place names. Black bears were very common here, and their populations may be rebounding in areas where there is enough human tolerance, space, and natural resources like healthy fish to support them. Place names like Sinnechetaconnet, Pocutahunk, Assonet, Monponset are descriptive village names in the closely related Indigenous languages here: Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Mahican, Narraganset/Niantic, many of which later had the newcomers towns and cities planted right on them. And they were renamed for places in England. In using Native placenames, I am reclaiming Native space in the northeast.
Individually made quahog shell wampum beads, smoked, naturally tanned deerskin warps, beading thread
This traditional wampumpeak belt is fashioned to look like the old style large belts; spare in design, with a lot of open space. They have a quietly expansive feeling of light on the open ocean, or perhaps light upon fields of snow. “The transition of winter to spring was very much in my mind,” says James-Perry, “between the open white belt design and the cool pale sun and spring fish run theme with a young bear in cold rushing waters taking trout, herring and other fish.” The male and female keepers of such pieces here in Massachusetts knew the stories and events very well by memory, and were not all depending on complex symbols to recall traditional knowledge and diplomacy at large gatherings or ceremony. Such wintertime gatherings for storytelling were common when there were many tribal communities in a region criss-crossed by well-traveled paths.
Internationally known artist Elizabeth James-Perry is enrolled with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head -Aquinnah in Massachusetts. Elizabeth makes distinctively robust and textured wampum shell jewelry, porcupine quillwork, and northeastern twined textiles. She creates substantial heirloom quality adornment items reflecting her Algonquian diplomatic heritage. In cultivating many of the plants used in natural dyes at her home in the Southcoast area of Massachusetts, her gardens serve to seed the suburbs with important Native species. The rest are wild harvested in a sustainable way.
Museums that have commissioned her artwork include Fruitlands Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, New England Museum, Heritage Plantation and Gardens, Museum of Fine Arts, New Bedford Whaling Museum, Library Company of Philadelphia, Haffenraffer Museum and the Wallraf-Richartz in Cologne Germany. Her recording about King Philips Sash, linking the rare textile into the story of colonization of Wampanoag and Wabanaki territory will be in the upcoming Hoist/Acknowledge + Listen report as part of the State of Massachusetts initiative to replace the state seal. She regularly designs authentic Northeastern handwoven and painted wardrobe, most recently for Tashtego in Moby Dick at A.R.T., and for Manahatta at Yale Repertory Theatre, and Desperate Crossings. Her film credits include producing the background scenery shots in Dartmouth, for As Nutayunean, the Wampanoag Language Reclamation film. Her wampum Leadership Medallion was emblazoned for several years on the banner of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. Her twined basketry and wampum choker sets have won awards at the Annual Heard Museum Art Show. In 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council honored her with a Traditional Arts Fellowship. Among the tribal mentor’s, she counts her mother Patricia James-Perry, a scrimshaw artist, illustrator and educator, along with the educators Nanepashemut Tony Pollard and Dr. Helen Attaquin, who are her cousins. Elizabeth continues their work to shore up oral traditions, additionally conducting research in local and European museums and archival collections.
She was honored to be a 38th Voyager onboard the historic Charles W. Morgan whaling vessel, as a descendant of the Gay Head crewmembers. The artist holds a degree in Marine Science from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, with coursework at Cornell University’s Shoals Marine Lab, Rhode Island School of Design-Continuing Education, and a certificate for Digital Tribal Stewardship from Washington State University. She has commercial fisheries research experience and practices scientific illustration. Employed for a decade within the Aquinnah Tribal Historic Preservation as a Senior Cultural Resource Specialist, she served as Federal Tribal Co-Lead of the Northeast Ocean Planning Body. She has published in Dawnland Voices 2.0 and served on the Tribal Advisory Board for Radcliffe’s Digital Archive of Native American Petitions Project. As a member of a Nation that has long lived on, and harvested the sea, Elizabeth’s is a perspective that combines Algonquian traditional ecological knowledge, genealogy, art and science in her ways of relating to life on the North Atlantic.