An article appeared in Emergence Magazine that encapsulated conversations with V as we talked about mapping from memory.
Jim Enote, a traditional Zuni farmer and director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, is working with Zuni artists to create maps that bring an indigenous voice and perspective back to the land, countering Western notions of place and geography and challenging the arbitrary borders imposed on the Zuni world.
“Modern maps don’t have a memory.”
“The Zuni World is not limited by any kind of boundaries, not on a piece of paper and not in our minds”
Below is a partial transcript:
We live in a world of many ways of knowing, with many different systems of knowledge.. the knowledge that Zuni people have about the landscape hasn’t been clearly understood, it’s time to assert that we have the knowledge about place and challenge what maps are about.
Zuni is a place where most people live within 2 minutes of every living relative, and dead relative. I think knowing where you are from is important. What other people call you is really what makes you Of this Place. First some of them know of me as a farmer, most of them don’t even know I’m a museum director. My Name is Jim Enote and I’m director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum, here in Zuni New Mexico
…..There’s my field, it’s kinda creepy to look down on…..It’s disorienting. One time I showed my mother some aerial photos her first response was “I’m not a bird”. She said “that’s not how I look at things, what am I looking at? I dunno what I’m looking at”
Maps have done a lot to confuse things for people.…More lands have been lost to native peoples probably through mapping than through physical conflict. I thought we would create some new kinds of maps that counter and challenge the notion of what maps are, where north does not have to be at the top, that scale is unnecessary. What’s more important is that these stories of history is described in these Vignettes of experience, and now these stories are for all Zunis to learn from, from here on. I wanted to make maps that were elegant provocative and profoundly important to the Zuni People and that’s where the map art idea came from.
These maps become a thing that helps a family or a group to start speaking about places, to start learning from each other and talking about places in a way that’s uniquely Zuni…if we were to go outside our doors now and walk down stream from the Zuni River we would take us right back in to the Grand Canyon, it’s like an umbilical chord that connecting us back to the place we came out from Mother Earth
We limit ourselves if we think of maps as only 2D – a map may be something we heard from our grandmother about a place…there are maps in songs and in prayers, there are maps that are etched in stone and woven onto textiles and painted on ceramics google maps or any other kind of maps are really helpful places the names around here are in English or in Spanish and so they completely leave off the meaning of the place it is replacing our language, eclipsing our language and knowledge with something different, something that’s not really from here, this whole constellation of what makes up a map to me has always been beyond what lies on a piece of paper… if my Grandpa and Grandma would see the Zuni maps they would recognise quite quickly ah yes this is what’s in that song, this is what’s in those prayers, and I thinks as their descendants we would have been proud. … remember those things …map art is gonna be something to say “he remembered”
Jim Enote, Zuni people, New Mexico