May 12, 2012

Free Family Adventure Day: Native American Inspirations

On view in Honoring A Legacy: Breastplate (Sioux)
Breastplate (Mescalero Apache); Shield (Apache)

This month's Family Adventure Day encourages us to be inspired by the culture and art forms of various Native American groups.Transforming rocks into arrowheads and animal bones into knives, Native Americans use natural materials to create tools, weapons and works of art that reflect and symbolize their cultural beliefs and values.

When thinking about shields, protection from physical harm may be the first idea that comes to mind. However, many Native Americans did not use shields merely for physical protection, but more as a form of spiritual guidance and protection, symbolizing a person’s experience during a vision quest.

Vision quests are a rite of passage, and represent  the transition from childhood to adulthood. Quests required an individual to be alone in the wilderness, sometimes lasting up to four days. During this time, a person becomes connected with the spirit world, and would receive a vision by an animal or totem. After the quest was over, their vision would be interpreted by a medicine man or spiritual leader. The "interpretation" is transferred to the shield using various colors, designs and natural elements, and symbolizes the person's source of protection and power. 

Keeping shields safe is important as they provide spiritual protection to the owner. Shields are carried or placed in a location of honor. They are often difficult to find in museums because there are usually buried with  their owner, continuing to protect the spirit even in death and ensure a safe return to Mother Earth. 

Detail: Shield (Apache), 1870. Rawhide, buckskin, mineral
pigments, trade paint.
The FAC's new exhibit, Honoring A Legacy, has shields on display along with richly decorated clothing, beaded moccasins, traditional tools and weapons, many of which are being shown for the first time.

At Family Adventure Day: Native American Inspirations, you'll have a chance to make your own shield, along with creating a totem pole and working with play. Enjoy artist demonstrations, and don't miss the free, docent led tour of the FAC galleries at 12:30 p.m.!

Family Adventure Day

Native American Inspirations
Sat.,, May 19 | 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Free! At the Bemis School of Art

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