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exhibition

Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women

Wilbur 4

Matika Wilbur, a member of the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes and the creator and director of Project 562, selects a group of striking photographs from among the thousands of portraits she has taken in recent years. Written narratives and audio of the interviews she conducted as part of her project accompany the photographs. Elders, activists, educators, culture-bearers, artists, and students have shared with Wilbur their realities as Native women. They convey how ancestral and contemporary identities shape their lives and hopes in Indian Country.

Wilbur is the only Native American photographer to be welcomed into each of the 562+ Native American sovereign territories in the United States. For the past three years, she has collaborated with scores of tribes to share the images and truths of Native American peoples.

“We portray the extraordinary lives and stories of Native women throughout North America. I believe the viewers will experience great understanding and connection with these remarkable women, just as they have enlightened and inspired me,” explains Wilbur. “Native women are traditionally the stewards of the vital relationship with land and have remained principal advocates for Mother Earth, from fracking protests to enduring matrilineal values. By exposing the astonishing variety of the Indian presence and reality, we will build cultural bridges, abandon stereotypes, and renew and inspire our national legacy.” 

Visitors to the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery experience a glimpse into the lives of Native women from across the Northeast—a Wampanoag ceramist and tribal historian from Massachusetts, a Mohawk molecular and cellular biologist from upstate New York, and a Wabanaki basket maker from Maine—and the continental United States: —a Pueblo professor and educator from New Mexico and a Tulalip mother-daughter pair who advocate for women’s rights in Washington. 

The exhibition is part of the Initiative on Native and Indigenous Peoples and is presented in collaboration with the Harvard University Native American Program.

Matika Wilbur, one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading photographers, has exhibited extensively in regional, national, and international venues such as the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, in France; the Royal BC Museum; the Seattle Art Museum; and the Tacoma Art Museum. She studied photography at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, in Montana, and received a bachelor’s degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography, in California. Her work led her to become a certified teacher at Tulalip Heritage High School, providing inspiration for the youth of her own indigenous community. Wilbur is unique as an artist and a social documentarian in Indian Country. The insight, depth, and passion with which she explores the contemporary Native identity and experience are communicated through the impeccable artistry of each of her silver gelatin photographs.


Curated by Yukio Lippit, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Director of the Arts, Professor of History of Art and Architecture

Produced by Meg Rotzel, arts program manager 

Exhibition design by Joe Zane

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