By Sherrie Williams, Oct. 25, 2022
The Native American Student Center welcomed Tongva and Scottish comic artist, illustrator and writer, Weshoyot Alvitre, for a Storyteller Series on Oct. 19 via Zoom. The event let the artist of Native American heritage come speak about her approach of storytelling through art.
The NASC hopes to host the storyteller series event once a month for the rest of the year to bring other artists with different storytelling niches. The next session on Nov. 9 will bring Mato Wayuhi, a performing artist and “Reservation Dogs” soundtrack composer to discuss how he engages with storytelling through music.
Interim Coordinator of the NASC, Alex “Panda” Armendariz, explained how this event developed from a conversation over the summer with Aaron DeRosa, professor of the of the English department.
“Dr. DeRosa reached out in really trying to be critical of his curriculum with his own class (Native American Literature); really wanting to challenge himself and his classroom to go beyond an academic setting of just literature,” Armendariz said. “He did include alternative forms of literature like TV shows, music and articles to challenge that notion of ‘this is what literature is only.’”
Alvitre is the first artist of the series and her coming to Cal Poly Pomona signified the highlighting of the local Tongva tribe since, according to Armendariz, CPP is based on Tongva lands.
Indigenous communities use not only oral narratives, but songs or dance to tell stories.
“Stories throughout our culture teach us life lessons especially here in Southern California. There is such a strong history of storytelling. We have our tribal culture where we have our oral tradition and it’s something you’d hear over and over again,” said Alvitre
Those same stories can teach basics of tribal laws and about the natural world to then tie back into the community she explained.
Birdsong stories learned from elders are seen to be a reclamation of tribal language and history too. Alvitre said how colonization led to romanization of Native American history. Because of this, the research she finds and reads, she needs to process it carefully and objectively.
“In the past I have tried to separate myself from work and I can’t do that because my work oftentimes is so personal and a psychological response to the things that have happened, the things that do happen, things that could potentially happen,” Alvitre said.
She takes pride in her art being her own and not for the audience when it comes to illustrating or writing. She likes to know where her work goes and to whom when contributing in collaborations.
Alvitre explained how she did not want to be the check for the performative box or to be a part of inaccurate works or readings. Her ability to have control over her work, “has served the work.”
“My own work is not your ‘superhero, aesthetic, not mainstream type’ it is maybe experimental,” said Alvitre.
Armendariz agreed with the ideals that not everything is for everyone. The mindset Alvitre has about her creative process leads to the question of access to those not a part of the community. The diverse engagement might be there but that is not entirely the point of ties and connections that some will never have versus those who do and always will.
She believes the passion and engagement she has over their craft will only make their storytelling stronger.
Students can visit the NASC or MyBar to find more information about other events and when the next session of the Storyteller Series will happen.
Feature image courtesy of Aaron Burden
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