Sealaska Heritage Institute
A Haida and Tlingit artist from Georgia has won Sealaska Heritage Institute’s (SHI) first-ever competition to visually represent Celebration, a huge, dance-and-cutlure festival held every even year in Juneau since 1982.
The artist, Kimberly Fulton Orozco, won with her piece The Energy That Moves Us, which was inspired by the Celebration 2022 theme Celebrating 10,000 Years of Cultural Survival.
“Kimberly’s art tells of our cultural survival in a traditional yet contemporary way. She did our ancestors proud,” said Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl.
The Energy That Moves Us features a series of layered ovoids that radiate from a circular center in constant movement. The ovoid is the foundational element of Northwest Coast design, and the Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian tribes share the common language of formline. It is a language of clan families, legacy, legend, movement, balance, and oneness, Orozco said.
The design depicts the core cultural values of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian, including (in Tlingit) Haa Aaní: Our land; Haa Latseení: Strength of body, mind and spirit; Haa Shuka: Honoring our ancestors and future generations; and Wooch Yáx: Social and spiritual balance.
“Each of the four ovoids of the design represents one of these values, while the wheels of time continue to turn. Generations recede in the distance, creating new shapes and a variety of color, while the foundations remain intact to carry forward with our traditions,” Orozco said.
“Like the design, the concepts that have perpetuated our culture for millennia are simple when observed. When nurtured, our culture and values bloom.”
Orozco’s art was chosen largely for its depiction of the theme, Worl said.
“We and our ancestors have overcome many obstacles, but our cultures have survived. The flower in Kimberly’s piece and the use of non-traditional Northwest Coast colors conveyed a sense of spring — a rebirth and a feeling of continued movement and evolution. Yet, the designs adhere to the rules and traditions of formline and depict our four core cultural values,” Worl said.
Sealaska Heritage Institute also purchased three other entries, which will visually represent other programs in the future. Those pieces were made by X’unei Lance Twitchell, Colby Williams, and Miciana Hutcherson.
In all, 27 Native artists from Alaska and the Lower 48 submitted 30 pieces for consideration. The winning pieces were chosen through a blind process, meaning the selection committee, which was kept anonymous, did not know the names of people who made the pieces they reviewed. Sealaska Heritage Institute ran the competition similar to a request for proposals; Entrants submitted rough sketches of their ideas which were assessed by the selection committee. The art will be the main visual Sealaska Heritage Institute will use to depict Celebration 2022.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. Sealaska Heritage Institute also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history, and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee, and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.