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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Culture and Creativity collide at the “American Indian Arts Expo”

    Justice Amarillas
    The American Indian Expo at the Tucson Convention Center on Feb. 19. The expo is a gathering of many local Native American tribes selling their various types of jewelries, art works and specialty crafts.

    The Tucson Convention Center, renowned for hosting colorful and artistic events, brings diversity and culture to the downtown Tucson area. Once again, the convention center presented an exposition that dazzled the Tucson community. The American Indian Arts Expo showcased a variety of hand-crafted jewels and totems.

    The exposition ran from Feb. 19-21 and showcased a small, intimate atmosphere, with its 14 stands that presented diverse and cultural art works.

    Stands were grouped by tribal recognition. Navajo artists and sculptors lined the east wall, while other tribes from the Southwest and West Coast filled the arena. At the first stand, Fred Synder, director and consultant of the exposition, expressed his appreciation for the American Indian culture and the exposition.

    “We’re a cooperative. We have 27,000 artists from 80 different tribes,” Synder said. “So we strive to keep the culture going. We’ve been around for 47 years. We have a barter and trade system, we have a scholarship program and maybe we can help produce prints needed for artisans.”

    Synder strives to allow audiences to understand the importance of revitalizing American Indian cultures. He stressed the importance of a “cultural bridge” between today’s realm and the American Indians.

    “We have to wear a Bostonian shoe on one foot and a moccasin on the other, and we aim to hopefully build a cultural bridge between those two,” Synder said.

    The stands showcased an array of necklaces, earrings, feathers, bracelets, rings and handmade totems. One stand exhibited an enormous scene with layered stones holding miniature animal sculptures. Each sculpture represented an animal and a spirit, and were beautifully crafted out of lime and sandstone.

    Pima Community College radiology junior Danielle Antosh passed through the organized exhibit with enthusiasm and curiosity.

    “It’s so cool to see how these art pieces help us to better understand the beauty of the many Native American Tribes,” Antosh said. “I love that each tribe represents different rituals and meanings. I myself have never been to an art exposition that had art from different cultures, but I felt that I learned about these tribes on a different, emotional level.”

    One stand in particular showed immense creativity and tribunal understanding. Navajo contemporary artist Tony Mitchell displayed cedar beads that were crafted from fresh juniper berries.

    In the Navajo culture, the beads create positive thoughts and a reflective energy that destroys negative energy. Apart from the beads, Mitchell also displayed gorgeous ritual jewelry, for which he expressed pride and sincerity.

    “Each color, each craft symbolizes a different direction,” Mitchell said. “Here we have a silver artifact, the markings mean stars and the father sky. Here, it means mother earth, and our devoted and much needed sun. … These colors and shapes are here to represent our Navajo [Dine] culture.”

    Mitchell’s pride in his tribe proved to be quite refreshing and the entire exhibition gave a sense of American Indian pride. The artists proudly represented their tribe with the knowledge that they were revitalizing their roots and heritage.

    The exposition was a sight for sore eyes. Culture is an increasingly valuable part of today’s fast-paced world and the American Indian Arts Expo at the Tucson Convention Center showcased this truth.

    Follow Sammy Cherukuri on Twitter.

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