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Indigenous International: Digital Natives Project — Belgium

The Indigenous International: Digital Natives Project in Belgium is an exploration that helps the young student artists to conceptualize how their cultures and heritages intersect within the framework of a number of issues pertaining to the access and deployment of digital tools, as well as representation in the popular imagination. The understanding of this phenomenon was actualized through the collaborative art projects realized through online and in person exchange.
The project is built around virtual exchange workshops and two in-person exchanges. The workshops will be led by creatives active in various art disciplines: directors, visual artists, performative artists, script writers, filmmakers, slam poets, and young influencers. These mentors will guide the participants along the way and expose them to the power of a nuanced creative presence on digital platforms, which goes far beyond the stereotypical imagery, and enable participants to re-imagine contemporary
The overarching project goal is to connect and empower the young people, in both countries, through meaningful discussions and creative expression, thus presenting a futuristic approach to the enhancement of cultural heritage preservation and proliferation.
The Digital Natives Project celebrates the cultural richness of belonging to a minority culture and give young participants the opportunity to bring to the foreground the distinct aspects of their cultural heritage that make up important parts of their identity. The project empowers young Native American student artists and young Belgian migrant artists to showcase the aspects of their heritage and identity that are not always positively depicted in the popular imagination, now dominated by images shared online. In doing so it also leverages digital tools and networks to meet young people where they live online. While also giving some of the more isolated participants the opportunity to harness the power of the internet to connect, preserve and promote new narratives through images and networks, while maximizing impact and constructing digital infrastructure to support ongoing relationships beyond the scope of the project itself.

Indigenous International: Digital Natives Project — Belgium

The inaugural term of the project was held from November 2018 – May 2019 via virtual exchange workshops, individual art-making and two in-person exchanges, enhanced by online and physical exhibitions in both places. Through this process, the student artists will explore the intersections between them in terms of culture, heritage, history, politics, and contemporary experiences of indigenous communities in America and migrant communities in Belgium. This exploration will help the student artists to conceptualize how their cultures intersect within the framework of a number of issues pertaining to the access and deployment of digital tools, as well as representation in the popular imagination (as minorities in multicultural societies). The understanding of this phenomenon will be actualized through individual and collaborative art projects. Furthermore, we hope to establish a safe space built on the common ground amongst the participants that will facilitate open and honest exchange and strengthen the bonds between individual participants.
The Indigenous International: Digital Natives Project in Belgium depicts cultural expression inspired by the exploration of cultural heritage through art making and technology. The project helps bridge the digital gap that exists among Native American and Belgian migrant communities and expands on notions of displacement, cultural identity, roots, community and multiculturalism. This exciting endeavor will be facilitated through a unique joint partnership between two leading institutions — the Soul of Nations Foundation, a leading advocate for empowering Native Americans through culture and heritage, and BOZAR, an international arts organization promoting the arts, tangible and intangible cultural heritage and social inclusion in Belgium and beyond.
Soul of Nations Foundation info@soulofnations.org

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IAIA students were selected to participate in the Soul of Nations Foundation’s Digital Natives Project in Belgium and the Congressional Exhibition Project’s second Native American Art Reception, a celebration in honor of Native American Heritage Month in Washington, D.C. 
Native American and Afro-European artists partake in the Soul of Nations Foundation’s Congressional Exhibition Project’s second Native American Art Reception, a celebration in honor of Native American Heritage Month
“This piece is not for you. This is an unapologetic grasp for identity.” So begins a new multimedia artistic work born out of an international exchange program called Digital Natives, which brought together a group of young Indigenous artists from the Americas and Africa (by way of  Belgium).

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2018-2019 Cohort: selected works

While the cohort was in the United States (Turtle Island), they explored the Navajo Nation Reservation and participated in a workshop with a jewelry designer at the Zuni Reservation. They also visited Window Rock, the seat of government and capital of the Navajo Nation in Arizona. They discussed their shared experiences of loss and enrichment. Young Belgians with an African background and young Americans with a Native American background: how do their experiences differ and where do they overlap?
Next, our Digital Natives traveled to Washington, where they got the opportunity to showcase their work in Congress, on Capitol Hill, and at Howard University. While in Washington, they also visited the National Museum of the American Indian and the Embassy of Tribal Nations, which represents the 573 Native American tribal nations.
Inspired by their interactions with the visual artists Jaque Fragua and Monty Little, both alumni of the IAIA, the young participants created a video work around these themes called Feeling Everything All At Once. While in Brussels, select members from the cohort made an untitled collaborative installation at BOZAR. 
Student Artists: Michael Begay, Madeline Lamb, Melverna Aguilar, Oriana Mangala Ikomo Wanga, Laouratou Barry, Ufitinema Arlette Birekeraho, Gregory Ballenger, and Delaney Keshena.
Artist Mentors: Jaque Fragua, Monty Little, and Sophie Saporosi.

Feeling Everything All At Once, 2018-2019.

FEELING EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE is a creative output from a multi-layered artistic exchange project called DIGITAL NATIVES. The art project was created in collaboration between students who attend the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Belgian participants who partnered with the Institute of Sainte-Marie in Brussels, Belgium.

This creative collaboration was administered by BOZAR — Center for Fine Arts Brussels and Soul of Nations. Designed and built in the 1920’s by the famous art nouveau architect Victor Horta, BOZAR – Center for  Fine Arts features almost 4000 m² of exhibition space, Belgium’s most prestigious concert hall as well as various smaller theatre and multimedia spaces. The CFA welcomes more than a million visitors a year and is the arts center par excellence in the cultural landscape of Belgium, host country to the European institutions. As such it is uniquely positioned to act as an agent of cultural diplomacy and exchange in the context of today’s most pressing issues.

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is the only four-year degree fine arts institution in the nation devoted to contemporary Native American arts. Since it was founded in 1962, IAIA has graduated over 3,000 students. The Institute welcomes students from the 573 federally-recognized tribes, as well as non-Native students, looking to obtain a world-class arts education. The school serves Native and non-Native American college students from across the globe. Through the concept of art as a traditional path of creativity, IAIA excels at building skills, provoking thought, and providing exceptional educational opportunities. IAIA is a place to embrace the past, enrich the present, and create the future.

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Soul of Nations Foundation, Inc.

Email: info@soulofnations.org              

Phone: +1 202.643.2164

© 2020  Soul of Nations Inc.

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