Tomaquag 60th Anniversary: Celebrating Indigenous Artists

This year Tomaquag Museum is proudly celebrating our 60 year anniversary.  This year we will spend time reflecting on the last 60 years, giving you a look inside our day to day activities and spotlighting several local Indigenous Artists.  We will spotlight artists here in our blog and we will also have a NEW artist spotlight museum exhibit that will showcase one Indigenous artist a month.  Along with the new artists’ exhibit, we have refreshed and revised our Narragansett Indian Church exhibit, Pursuit of Happiness and our  co-founder Princess Red Wing’s exhibit.  Our first blog post of 2018 features our newest MET-high school freshman intern and Narragansett artist Nkeké Harris!


Narragansett Artist and Tomaquag Museum's MET School Intern, Nkeké Harris

Narragansett Artist and Tomaquag Museum's MET School Intern, Nkeké Harris

Being a North-Eastern Native has had an enormous impact on my work as an artist. My cultural identity and heritage fuels my passion and gives me inspiration through traditional styles and designs. I am Nkéke Harris a 14-year-old Narragansett artist and intern at the Tomaquag Museum. My art ranges from drawing and painting to fashion design and writing. Along with being an artist, I am also a champion powwow dancer, being a dancer gives me a platform to showcase my art and designs through my regalia. I have made one regalia, and my favorite moccasins were made by my father, but I painted my own rendition of our family design on them. I have also made designs for a new regalia and moccasins.  

Basket Stamp With Traditional Design

Basket Stamp With Traditional Design

A lot inspires my art, most of the time I use floral designs and more traditional styles of art; However, I do enjoy doing more contemporary art and realism, and occasionally I combine the two very different styles to make one vibrant piece. An example of merging the two art styles can be seen in a sweatshirt I made using a bright patterned fabric (the fabric had birds and computer slang and puns), but I appliquéd a traditional basket stamp design on the front. One of my favorite drawings was one of a crying face (unfortunately It was on a messy page of doodles), This piece was made to highlight the pain native peoples go through and show intergenerational trauma. A big reason I do art is to show the pain, injustice, strength, and history of First Nations people.

Sweatshirt With Basket Stamp Designs

Sweatshirt With Basket Stamp Designs

 I find it important for Native people to embrace their culture and ensure a continuation of their culture and traditions. Even if I didn’t make traditional designs, my art would still be Native because I am a Native person and I know the pain and trauma that all native peoples know.
Looking forward I would like like to bring all of my unfinished designs and concepts to life by taking them to the paper and bringing them to cloth and tangible items. I would also like to look back and transform my doodles into polished pieces. One goal I have is to take my regalia design and have it finished for the 2018 powwow season. I would also like to start making items to sell at the museum gift shop. My biggest goal might be to teach traditional styles of art to others in my community to continue the tradition and keep it alive.


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