Themes

Indigenous art forms are under threat. Unscrupulous vendors sell knock-off imitations misrepresenting their authenticity. Corporations appropriate native imagery for commercial product designs. Cultural imagery is appropriated without permission, royalties, context, or respect for the culture or its people.

The themes of Project Indigene—authenticity, appropriation, activism, and artistic identity—are issues that have concerned the indigenous arts and culture community for decades.

Authenticity

Ensuring the art was and is created by indigenous artists, using genuine materials, driven by culture, and cultural identity, rooted in evolving contemporary art forms as well as the traditional. Recognizing the 576 tribes protected by the Indian Arts and Crafts law, while embracing the work of indigenous artists from tribes with declining populations no longer recognized by the law. Committing to maximize all opportunities to educate the consumer about why authenticity matters.

Appropriation

The inappropriate use of cultural iconography and cultural property without permission, used solely to make money without imparting a larger message.  The Indigenous Art Team seeks to address: the 21st century ethics of sampling and the reluctance to pay for intellectual property, particularly as it pertains to designs and images created by indigenous artists, underscoring their continued relevance today as living cultures; the past century’s intrusive appropriation, among some tribes, which continues to be the unauthorized taking and use of photographs, and cultural imagery;  and to foster collaboration and consultation with the originating artist(s) and tribe(s) to ensure the imagery used is not considered sacred by indigenous people.

Activism

Indigenous artisans, like other artists, use their practice to advance an agenda for positive social change in the world. Recognizing native art as an important aspect of activism, telling the stories of the struggles and triumphs of indigenous people, using their practice to change in the world. The Indigenous Art team recognizes a need to advance an agenda to protect native imagery used inappropriately for commercial gain

Artistic Identity

Defined as when an artist stays true to the authenticity of their own life and experience, creating art from a personal interpretation of the area, the subject, the culture, the artist’s own past and present, bringing the authenticity of their own life and experience to their creation.