The joint exploration of cultural identity is prevalent in the exhibit as a whole, which is partly what makes it such an intimate and personal one. “My work is always focused very much on my history, my thoughts, and my worldview,” said Zamara. "Telling those stories that don’t often get told in our mainstream society.” She makes telling the stories of women a priority, as her art is full of themes of women’s empowerment. In response to an audience member who asked her reasoning for using such heavy lines and contrast in her work, she described a desire to depict the feminine as also bold and carrying weight as opposed to delicate and fragile. According to Zamara, she saw very few works focused on women in traditional Maya art growing up, and what she did find inspired her to create more.
Jonathan Thunder’s work is also deeply personal and exploratory. “I had been working in the theme of paths to identity, paths home, paths to decolonization, and paths to strength,” he said, referencing his work in relation to the Long Night that is a focus of both his art and Zamara’s. The artwork he exhibited was a mix of both lighthearted and more surreal imagery, ranging from a teddy bear with a crown to one of his larger works - the latter depicting a child floating amidst red ceremonial ribbons, between an Indigenous elder to one side and ominous figurative symbols of colonization to the other.
Jonathan Thunder and Zamara Cuyún are both incredibly talented artists and insightful individuals. Through this exhibit they have outlined similarities between Anishinaabe and Maya Indigenous experiences, explored their identities, and brought forward their own thought-provoking conceptions of what home means to them. We’re so grateful to have their exhibit in the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center and hope to host them both again in the future. The full video of their conversation can be found HERE.
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