A groundbreaking new show, Native Realities: Superheroes of Past, Present, and Future opens at form & concept gallery in Santa Fe on November 11th 2016. The show is being held in conjunction with the world’s first Indigenous Comic Con, which launches in Albuquerque on November 18th at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Native Realities shares the stories of superheroes across Native cultures. With comics created by youth and teachers in Zuni Pueblo, and the works of professional comic artists Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva), Jonathan Nelson (Diné), Jon Proudstar (Yaqui), Ryan Singer (Navajo), and Arigon Starr (Kickapoo), the show invites the public to consider the role of heroes - defined as everyday people doing extraordinary work - in our lives.
The opening at form & concept will feature presentations by students and leaders from Zuni Pueblo. The Zuni Pueblo project partnered with UNM ZETAC (Zuni: Engaging Teachers and Community), a W. K. Kellogg Foundation initiative, to work with Zuni public school teachers to develop project-based curriculum from a cultural perspective. In Zuni Pueblo, teachers and the youth are working to keep their language alive through classroom activities.
“My comic is about a superhero who comes and makes our gardens grow by bringing the rain” explained one 6th grader. A teacher described her superhero, Yucca Girl, as a character of resiliency. “After my sister passed away I started making baskets. I would collect the yucca for the baskets and being outside, being with the yucca plants, that helped me deal with my grief”
Lee Francis, founder of Native Realities, launched his comic book company in April of 2015 with the idea that in order to change the stereotypical representations of Native people, one had to start with pop culture. The Indigenous Comic Con grew out of the efforts of Native Realities and is a three-day celebration of all things Native and Indigenous pop culture. “The response has been overwhelming! There are so many Indigenerds out there and we are glad to have them at the Con!” Lee shared. The superheroes and comics form and concept will display builds on a long tradition of Native comics.
One of the artists on display, Arigon Starr (Kickapoo), is the creator of the Super Indian comic series. Super Indian was originally produced as a nationally broadcast radio comedy series in 2007 and became a webcomic that debuted in 2011. “I modeled him after the classic Batman TV show from the 1960s with Adam West and Burt Ward”, Starr says. “Most hardcore comic book people dismiss that series, but it really influenced my storytelling. So often Native folks are never shown having a sense of humor and being funny is important to my work. There is a lot of social consciousness evident in Super Indian, but disguised in humor. You can look at it as satire or parody – but underneath the yuks, it’s great to explore issues of identity, community and how Native folks are perceived.”
Pueblo project is borne of an ArtPlace-funded grant that includes a partnership of the Indigenous Design and Planning Institute (iD+Pi) at UNM, Creative Startups, and multiple tribal entities in Zuni Pueblo. Dr. Ted Jojola, founder of iD+Pi initiated the program and sees that culturally appropriate design and planning develops creative communities. The project’s goal is to build a thriving creative community in Zuni that increases incomes and reflects Pueblo-driven community design. “Native communities are rich in creativity and culture. Community planning that reflects this richness can help drive economic development - and creative entrepreneurs are at the heart of this work” reflects Alice Loy, a co-founder of Creative Startups. ArtPlace America is funding the UNM Indigenous Design and Planning Institute, Creative Startups, and multiple partners in Zuni Pueblo.