Culture Dose: The Arts + Indigenous People

Celebrating marginalized communities at SAM and SIFF.

Some days carry a unifying theme that we don’t register until after the fact. Last Wednesday was one of those for me–a delightfully arts-rich day that began downtown at the Seattle Art Museum and continued at Queen Anne’s SIFF Cinema at the Uptown. The common thread binding these culture pit stops? The celebration and exploration of indigenous communities.

Sun Mat (02.004), 2002, by Regina Pilawuk Wilson

At the SAM exhibit “Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection,” I was grateful to get lost among a sea of mesmerizing and vibrant paintings (the perfect cure to combat my first exposure to Seattle’s “June Gloom'”). The dazzling works instantaneously transported me off on far-flung walkabouts and into the sacred Aboriginal concept of Dreamtime. There’s something profound and humbling about absorbing an art form that has existed for more than 50,000 years.

Photo taken by Corinne Whiting

While SAM’s newest exhibit touches on the ongoing struggles and challenges of Australia’s Aboriginal communities, it mostly celebrates the modern-day successes of this ancient form of art. Through September 2,  the exhibit shows more than 100 works created from 1970 through 2009 in what’s been described as “the artistic renaissance of the world’s oldest living culture.” “Ancestral Modern,” which also features sculpture and a symbolic sand installation, is laid out showing work that progresses from east to west, as the sun rises and moves across the desert. The works portray the intrinsic link between the people and their land (in their eyes, the land owns the people versus them owning the land), while revealing the vast diversity of the Aboriginal people themselves (more than 600 languages/dialects thrived when the white man showed up some 200 years ago).

So a piece of sage advice; if “Juneary” is threatening to dampen your sunny disposition, head Down Under at SAM for a quick and colorful boost.

Photo taken by Corinne Whiting

For my next arts stop, I headed to Queen Anne for my first glimpse of the Seattle International Film Festival (but thankfully not my last). There I saw “Nosilatiaj.Beauty,” an exquisitely-executed film that paints a grim picture of Argentina’s treatment of their indigenous people. Read a recap and watch a trailer of the 83-minute Argentinean film here.

Or better yet, experience it for yourself Saturday, June 9 at 6 p.m. at the SIFF Cinema Uptown or Sunday, June 10 at 11 a.m. at Harvard Exit. I guarantee the film’s powerful message will stay with you long after you leave the theater.