Abalone Woman

Recently, I was asked by another member of my tribe if I would participate in a Native art exhibition down in Northern California. They were applying for a grant to get additional funding and putting the application together. The draft proposal sounded great and I agreed. He asked for a single artwork image to include with the proposal and I sent a photo of a painting along with a photo of Robohontas as that has been occupying a lot of my time lately.

He liked the Robohontas photo, but wondered if I could give him one that was clearer and more documentary. I understood, since the ones I post on the site are very “rough.” I spent some time doing a photo session with Robohontas on a background of tiny abalone shells that I’ve been saving for a project, and the image above is the one I supplied to him.

All this was two days ago. Last night, I was working with some of the iPhone shell pictures I had taken to post them on the site in the future. I remembered a book I have (which I’ve probably posted about earlier) called Abalone Tales: Collaborative Explorations of Sovereignty and Identity in Native California. I’m not entirely sure what I was looking for exactly, perhaps an idea for a caption, but I found so much more! Interestingly enough, there was a chapter in the book called, “Reflections on the Iridescent One,” that was written by the same person who asked if I would participate in the exhibit. One of the things he wrote about was a spirit named Abalone Woman and the role she played in an art installation he had done previously:

“In the end, Abalone Woman, Hiwot, became the heart of the art piece for two reasons. Abalone Woman consolidated–in my mind, at least–several different stories and concepts from different local tribes that together defined northwestern California as a distinct cultural region. In addition, the voices of Harrington’s Wiyot consultants affirmed my belief and assertion that the unequivocal spiritual focus for our indigenous ancestors was a strict devotion to and emulation of Spirit Beings, the progenitors of indigenous humankind.”

Whether coincidence or something more, it felt important to me to have created that image and then find these connections. Whatever Robohontas means to other people (and my intent is for people to interpret her messages and images in a way that makes sense for them), for me she will always also be a representation of Abalone Woman. What I love about Robohontas, is that she can be so many things at once.


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