“A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary & Contemporary Art” — at the Cherokee Museum Until 3/147.19.2021
[Rhiannon Skye Tafoya (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), Ul’nigid’, 2020. © Rhiannon Skye Tafoya, image Rhiannon Skye Tafoya.]
Museum of the Cherokee Indian (until October 31, 2021)
Asheville Art Museum (November 18, 2021 - March 14, 2022)
A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art features over 50 works of art in a variety of media by 30+ Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and Cherokee Nation artists.
The exhibition highlights the use of the written Cherokee language, a syllabary developed by Cherokee innovator Sequoyah (circa 1776–1843). Cherokee syllabary is frequently found in the work of Cherokee artists as the main subject matter and in compositional elements.
The Cherokee Syllabary is a system of writing developed by Sequoyah in the early 1800s prior to the Removal period. Through Sequoyah’s innovative work, Cherokee people embraced the writing system as an effective form of communication and documentation.
During the Indian Removal Act in 1830, most Cherokees were forced to migrate on the Trail of Tears. Though forced from their homes and land and robbed of their belongings, they took the Cherokee language and syllabary with them, helping to maintain Cherokee unity and solidarity.
Showcasing Cultural Pride
Cherokee people continue to use the syllabary as a form of cultural expression and pride, which is showcased in the contemporary artwork of the Cherokee artists in this exhibition.
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians artists include Joshua Adams, Jody Lipscomb Bradley, Nathan Bush, Kane Crowe, John Henry Gloyne, Shan Goshorn, Luzene Hill, Christy Long, Louise Bigmeat Maney, Christopher McCoy, Tara McCoy, Joel Queen, Sean Ross, Jakeli Swimmer, Rhiannon Skye Tafoya, Mary Thompson, Stan Tooni Jr., Alica Wildcatt, and Fred Wilnoty.
Cherokee Nation artists include Roy Boney Jr., Jeff Edwards, Joseph Erb, Raychel Foster, Kenny Glass, Camilla McGinty, Jessica Mehta, America Meredith, Jane Osti, Lisa Rutherford, Janet L. Smith, Jennifer Thiessen, and Jennie Wilson.
[Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), Gold N’ Values, 2017. © Estate of Shan Goshorn / Shan Goshorn Studio, image Museum of the Cherokee Indian.]
Organizers & Sponsors
This exhibition is organized by the Asheville Art Museum and Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and curated by Joshua Adams, EBCI artist and independent curator, and Hilary Schroeder, assistant curator at the Asheville Art Museum. This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership, and sponsored in part by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and Kevin Click & April Liou in memory of Myron E. Click.
A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art will be on view at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC, until October 31, 2021, and then it will move to the Asheville Art Museum’s Appleby Foundation Exhibition Hall from Nov. 18, 2021 to March 14, 2022.
[Jeff Edwards (Cherokee Nation), Tsalagiopoly. © Jeff Edwards, image Jeff Edwards.]