Filming in Kenya
We were just about to send this message last week when the horrible news from Nairobi came in. It was with deep sadness and terror that I read of the attack, which took place in a mall where my crew and I often had lunch just last month. We have delayed sending this newsletter until after the three day mourning period, which will be over when you receive this. We believe that a positive message about Kenya could be a good thing, so we are sharing our vivid memories of our August trip with you here.
Traveling with Wangechi Mutu
for A Necessary Madness
This was Wangechi's first family trip home in nearly 20 years. During that time, she made a life in New York, became a world-class artist, married and had two children. All the while, her complex feelings about Africa and home erupted in her art, often in disturbing ways. Where do these explosive feelings come from? And how can she satisfy her longing to go home again?
These are questions that A Necessary Madness will address. Many clues emerged while we were in Kenya. Wangechi had always wanted to know more about The Emergency (aka the Mau Mau Rebellion), a violent uprising that preceded Kenya’s independence. When she was a girl, no one would talk about the Mau Mau time, or the upheavals that uprooted Kikuyus from their land.
During a visit to her 93-year-old grandmother, Wathira, Wangechi and all of us learned a lot about the brutality of Kenyan history. With our camera rolling, Wangechi asked Wathira about life under colonial rule, and about the oath she and most Kikuyus had taken to shield and support the Mau Maus. Wathira described being forcibly taken from their land by the British, and being caught in the middle of the violence on both sides. At one point, Wangechi said that she got her fierceness from her grandmother, and Wathira just smiled. (For more about this and other epiphanies during the shoot, Click Here
Prodigal Daughter, part of a series of collages by Wangechi Mutu called Family Tree.
Image courtesy of the Artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.
Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Below, a slide show of images, filming with DP Joan Churchill and our fabulous fixer, Justin Purefoy, who also helped with sound. Some of the most memorable moments were visiting Wangechi's mentor, paleontologist Richard Leakey, at his Turkana Basin Institute; discovering a treasure trove of Wangechi's teenage artworks; and a visit to The Nest, an art center founded by friends. (Click Here to see more photos.
Next up: filming the planning and installation of Wangechi’s first retrospective exhibit, A Fantastic Journey,
in the feminist wing of the Brooklyn Museum, opening on October 11 and running through March 9, 2014 (Click for exhibit information
Vision Maker Media Funding for
The California Tribal Justice Project!
I am very pleased to announce that Vision Maker Media has awarded The California Tribal justice Project development funding. At last we can head back to Quechan to begin filming Judge White and some of her ongoing cases. I am really looking forward to working with Quechan filmmaker Dan Golding, pictured with me here at the Language Is Life Conference.
Stay tuned for breaking news about this project.
An Exultation of
California Indian Languages
I have just returned from the Language is Life Conference at the beautiful Marin Headlands in Northern California. It was a moving and energizing event, with more than 200 native people of all ages coming together from many California Indian communities, sharing experiences and information about the ways they are keeping their languages alive.
I was honored to be invited by renowned linguist Leanne Hinton to talk about We Still Live Here, my documentary about the revival of the Wampanoag language. Many in the audience had already seen the film and spoke eloquently about how the story has inspired them in their language work. Leanne also asked me to talk about my new film, The California Tribal Justice Project.
During the weekend, the connection between language revival and the tribal courts crystallized for me. Both are crucial to native identity and tribal sovereignty. The judges we are featuring are reaching back to traditional values embedded in their languages, creating culturally appropriate forms of justice, and asserting their sovereign rights to adjudicate cases in their own ways.
Speaking Our Mother Tongues
at the Language Is Life Conference
At the conference I also gave a brief demonstration of the Our Mother Tongues website.
It was great to show our newest sections on the Chumash and Karuk languages, with video filmed by Dan Golding at the Breath of Life conference last year. Here, Dan is interviewing Monique Sonoquie (Chumash) for Chasing Voices,
his film about linguist John Peabody Harrington.
There were many Chumash and Karuk speakers and language learners at the conference, among them Crystal Richardson and family members from the Karuk tribe, who demonstrated teaching techniques. Click here
to watch video of Crystal and others talking about learning from their elders, figuring out new words, and using language to heal the past.
During a break, awesome Yurok language instructor Carole Lewis told me how Judge Abinanti supports language revitalization efforts at Yurok. She often gives offenders who have been convicted of substance abuse the opportunity to complete community service in Carole’s language classes, a great place to heal and develop pride in their tribal identity and culture.
A multi-generational gathering of many
California Indian tribes at Language is Life
Photos courtesy of Scott Braley, www.ScottBraley.com
Explore the Our Mother Tongues Website
Can you guess which icon below goes with which tribe on the Our Mother Tongues website? Click to find out!
Check out great photos, watch Videos and learn about many Native American languages from Alaska to North Carolina, Oklahoma to New York, Montana to Massachusetts. There is even an Interactive Map, a Voices page where you can listen to thirteen different Native tongues, a Blog, and a fun feature called ePostcards offering an entertaining way to connect with friends and family by sending audio greetings in a Native American language.
Please visit OurMotherTongues.org
From Tamara G —
I recently watched We Still Live Here and wanted to commend you on your excellent film! While the story itself is truly remarkable, I feel the film is sensitively and beautifully crafted, and I am grateful for your vision in bringing this story to the screen. I hope one day to meet you and also Jessie Little Doe. What amazing women!
From Mette T —
I saw We Still Live Here at the Native Vision Film Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, this weekend. I was moved and so impressed at seeing the work of creating a "long dead" language. Not only are you recreating the language, but you are giving it new life. It takes people with an immense fire inside to accomplish this task.
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