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A Look Back: A:shiwi A:wan Ulohnanne—The Zuni World

On view from view September 2015 to January 2016 at the Fowler, A:shiwi A:wan Ulohnanne—The Zuni World presented 24 map paintings by 10 Zuni artists, including established “masters” Ronnie Cachini, Duane Dishta, and Edward Wemytewa, and emerging artists Keith Edaakie, Geddy Epaloose, Larson Gasper, Ermalinda Pooacha-Eli, Kenneth Seowtewa, Levon Loncassion, and Joey Zunie.

The maps were commissioned by the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center in New Mexico between 2006 and 2013 to raise awareness about Zuni cultural landscapes and utilize art as a medium for mapping. As the collection grew, it became a metaphor for the power of maps and a reflection on how our world can be mapped in different ways to represent different knowledge systems and cultural sensibilities.

The paintings depict landscapes as well as historical events, such as Zuni migrations and relationships to places throughout the Colorado Plateau. They also evoke conversations and guide viewers through the cosmology of the Zuni world. Jim Enote, the exhibition’s curator and then-director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, summed up the exhibition as follows: “The Zuni understand meanings within these maps while others may not, the latter group is confronted with an unfamiliar world view, an unfamiliar system of knowledge sharing, and an appreciation that we live in a world with many ways of knowing.”

Enote further explained, “In the face of modernity and globalization, Zunis, along with other Indigenous peoples, are struggling to maintain a relationship with cultural landscapes. I believe in addition to conventional maps, we need new ways to represent our world; it is time to proceed beyond the map. Zuni map art is a collective, revisionist effort to elaborate Zuni history and cultural survival independent from the non-Zuni narrative, using Zuni language and Zuni aesthetic sensibilities. The Zuni maps help Zuni people understand where they came from and why Zuni culture is associated with places far away from the reservation circumstances.”

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