Temporary Art Installation by Mercedes Dorame
Tongva artist Mercedes Dorame created a temporary art installation in Grand Park, to coincide with the programming of Memory is in the Present. The artwork will be available for viewing November 21, 2020 – January 4, 2021 and is located in the second block of the park between Grand Ave and Hill St.
Wee Nehiinkem—All my Relatives
Nechoova yakeenax—Dance with me
Taamet’e Pakook—The Sun is Rising
I am an artist with deep roots in Tovaangar (Los Angeles). I am Tongva, I was born and have lived most of my life in this city. My cultural and personal connection to the land inspires my art practice and social justice work bringing visibility to the Tongva and other Native people who inhabit this city. I constantly explore my experience and interactions in a place my ancestors have always called home. I am interested in pathways and points of access into the land to which I feel deeply connected. As an Indigenous person in my homeland, I have to deal with the contradiction of feelings of belonging, contrasted with feelings of being called a trespasser on somebody else’s private land. These contradictions propel me to fight the institutional erasure we experience and build a more reciprocal relationship to the land and sky.
A Note About Monuments From the Artist
Monuments are often referencing the past—past heroes, past events, however, my intent is to bring visibility to that which has always and continues to inspire us as Indigenous people: the sky, the land, indigenous plant life, celestial bodies and our infinite ability to be connected to these entities and each other. This connection brings opportunity for healing to the community, truth in understanding the Indigenous intrinsic knowing around these entities, and reconciliation for those that participate and experience the installation and exchange of knowledge around Indigeneity.
About the Artwork
Wee Nehiinkem—All my Relatives is an invitation to look up and observe the movement of the sun to remember and to imagine. Working with the Tongva origin story of Taraaxashom or the Pleiades, I create star maps of remembering, reconnection, and envisioning. In pointing to cosmic movement I ask the viewer to look up, to observe, find perspective, and reverence. I also invite the viewer to look down, to know that the ground they stand on is Tongva land, and to reawaken this connection to our history to envision a more equitable future.
This installation will also be here in the park for the Winter Solstice a time where our ceremony pulls back the sun back into the sky to create longer days. I use cast concrete star stones, ochre, cinnamon, salt, shells stones, paint, and red yarn, traditional and contemporary cultural materials to map this story.
The plinth holds a canvas with a star map of Taraaxashom (the Pleiades), six Tongva women who when they found out their partners were holding back food from the community, catapulted themselves into the sky to become the stars that created Taraaxashom (the Pleiades). The shade sails are a star map of Taurus, who is the arrangement of stars of the one man who brought home food for his partner and loved her so much he also sent himself up into the sky to be near her.
In re-telling our stories and claiming land I hope to reclaim space and understanding of the original caretakers of Los Angeles, the Tongva people, and to proclaim, we are here, we are vibrant, we are thriving and we will not be silent.