Native Now Festival Artists Talk Indigenous Culture and The Native Identity Today
This Saturday the Native Now Festival will bring performers, artists, and musicians from all over Arizona and the country to the Deer Valley Rock Art Center for a daylong celebration of contemporary indigenous culture. Each of the performances will explore what it means to be an indigenous person in Arizona today through media including spoken performances, film, and music.
Still from "Interview with Einstein" by Velma Kee Craig
Performances will include "My Transformation" by artist and educator Melanie Sainz. Sainz says she has been presenting the work for more than 40 years, since she first toured the country after being named Miss Indian America. Sainz, a member of the Hochunk Nation of Wisconsin, has presented the work at schools, festivals and more since that time.
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"My Transformation" begins with Sainz dressed in modern apparel. She tries to dress in a way that would be typical for the specific show. And then she begins to don traditional Hochunk regalia. As she goes she discusses each item of clothing, sharing the clothing's significance and telling stories of her tribe's heritage. Sainz says she expects the performance to be about 20 minutes long.
Photograph by Eden Shuster "My Transformation"
"I go into the dialogue trying to dispel stereotypes and issues that are present today," Sainz says.
She also tries to use the performance as an opportunity to bring attention to the reality of native people, which she says have been "trophy-ized" by being used as mascots and in popular culture.
"There's nothing for us," she says. "We're still people, but people don't really recognize us."
Sainz is also a ceramics artist who works in glass bead and porcupine quillwork, pottery, contemporary mixed media sculpture, and found object art. You can find out more information about her nonprofit, Little Eagle Arts Foundation, which supports emerging native artists at the foundation's website.
Native Now will also include screenings of three works by award-winning filmmakers Dustinn Craig and Velma Kee Craig. The couple has been making films professionally for 15 years.
"These three films are part of our creative projects - so they're our independent films," Velma Kee Craig says. "I think we chose them [for the festival] ... because they are something we do for fun."