On Saturday, March 1, Native American Voices: The People — Here and Now opens at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. Scheduled to run for five years, it's one of the most impressive commitments to American Indian art and culture you're likely to see this side of the National Museum of the American Indian or Native-focused museums like the Heard (in Phoenix, AZ) or the Eiteljorg (in Indianapolis, IN).
Earlier this week, we shared a gallery of art and artifacts from the exhibition that illustrate the richness of the material collected from the past — items that for the most part say something about Native American history. But Native American Voices isn't a history exhibit, or, at least, it isn't just a history exhibit. With multimedia displays and input from a vast array of leading Native artists and experts, Native American Voices strives to be as much about the present — in all its tangled glory — as the past.
The project has been a long time in the making, with many components, one of which is the Native American Voices Video Project, for which Hopi journalist Patty Talahongva produced five films based on interviews with 25 Native American artists, activists, scholars, and youth in their home communities. Below are the fruits of that labor, which was completed in 2011; portions of these films will be shown at the Penn Museum as part of Native American Voices: The People — Here and Now: