“Manhattan Given Back To Indians…” & Benny Andrews’ Bicentennial Blues & Frohawk Two Feathers’ Frenglish New York
Given that I was out all day yesterday — primarily attending an uptown art salon in Lower Harlem, where I sang — I completely missed this odd bit of NYC local news: MANHATTAN GIVEN BACK TO INDIANS (well at least a part of it)
Although I have some close ties with the Ramapough Lunaape and am acquainted with Chief Dwaine Perry, I have not to my knowledge crossed paths with the New York Post article’s cited chief Anthony Jay Van Dunk nor have I met the cited son of artist Louise Bourgeois — I have been a fleeting fan of hers due to her longevity/continuing to create but expertise on her life & oeuvre lies with my twin sister, the art historian — Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois. I don’t know quite what to make of this transaction, but if the ultimate result is a patahmaniikan (prayer house) then fine. I did not get to participate in the Ramapough winter ceremony this past Saturday out @ Split Rock, for it was cancelled due to snow/inclement weather; so I have not heard any direct commentary from the Source, as it were.
The article says Bourgeois fils has been a Standing Rock benefactor, yet I was more interested to learn of other Natives’ participation in the Occupy Movement for in all the months I was involved in it, particularly Occupy Music, I never met any. Now, if only this M. Bourgeois would get behind the fight to establish Indigenous Peoples Day in NYC. Overall, it was just a little odd piece of news to be sent to me by other Urban Native friends, at the end of the year when Standing Rock has become such a Hollywood trendy Cause (Elvis’ grand baby appearing at hyped LA benefits) & indigenous chic itself has been atomizing err’where — especially on the backs of musical artists with no Native roots including hip-hop ones & judges of The Voice like Alicia Keys — but I am still encountering folks who never heard of what’s going on with the Dakota Access Pipeline (or any other of this land’s black snakes). It’s weird to be revisiting the apocryphal sale of Manhattan by the Lenape to the Dutch, even as our Tri-State news is dominated by news of president-elect Trump’s vast real estate holdings here, the need to barricade Trump Tower in Midtown, and the ongoing discussion of the City as Trump’s fiefdom. I hope the Ramapough do not get targeted by limousine liberals, due to their local residence. Meantime, instead of hashtagging activism, focus & funds need to be directed to the many Native protectors of Standing Rock who are now facing felonies / about to have their cases trafficked through the courts in North Dakota — and there’s inadequate legal representation for most. Some of us staying woke despite the narcotic of holiday cheer.
(Chief Van Dunk, Ramapough, & art patron/architectural historian Bourgeois via New York Post)
Anyroad, I believe this story jumped out at me due to a long conversation about Native American roots out of the Mid-Atlantic and “outsider art” creation we had on Friday afternoon in Chelsea, on the verge of a gallery crawl through the ‘hood to see Titus Kaphar’s opening @ Jack Shainman & the great Bicentennial Series show of one of my favorite painters/fellow Georgian Benny Andrews @ Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. Some strange confluence out of the dialogue and Early Colonial (Kaphar) plus Bicentennial/Jim Crow reflection (Andrews) stirred things up…& made me recall the peculiar but beautiful work of Frohawk Two Feathers who was de vogue a few years back, with prominent Chelsea gallery representation & who I have never met but this particular project is extremely similar to my inner imaginorium/worldview – although he is younger than I, born (interestingly) in the year of the American Bicentennial, 1976: Heartbreaking and shit, but that’s the globe. The Battle of Manhattan
(By Frohawk Two Feathers)
Chicago-born, LA-based Frohawk Two Feathers is the alias of Afro-Native artist Umar Rashid (who also does vanguard and alt-hip-hop music under the monikers Kent Cyclone & Tha Grimm Teachaz); and the 2014 culmination of a series of his work blending Afrofuturism and fact / fiction of early settler colonialism in the Americas caught my notice for decades prior to my arrival in New York City — in part due to my Native American great aunt Helena’s residence in Harlem since the 1930s — I had been an (alternative) history buff preoccupied with the lore of the Ramapough, Jacks-and-Whites / other isolates of the area; the apocryphal sale of Manahata and the Algonquin villages of the landmass; and the religious/occult traditions arising from the upstate Burned-Over District. [Which also drew my interest to the now-defunct Sundance network show The Red Road, which focused on Ramapough, starring half-Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa who claims Native American & for which my cousin’s wife Marcey Tree-In-The-Wind served as a consultant.] Two Feathers’ work seemed to at least gloss similar concerns:
“Bonnie Prince Johnnie, flamboyant pharaoh of New York; Francesca, a.k.a. Tisiphone, Native American assassin; Maurits de Wolff, former slave and soldier extraordinaire; Akosua Van Der Zee, wrathful feminist and malicious schemer.
These are a few of the characters in a wildly original telling of the fictional Battle of Yonkers in 18th-century New York; their portraits and those of other tattooed warriors, misled rulers and vengeful women…
…[final] installment of “The American Proteus: An Invocation and the Wars Between the Rivers,” an alternative account of the colonization of northeastern North America that is both written and visual in form, epic in scope, and built around the imaginary Republic of Frengland (a combination of England, France and Ireland).”
There were paintings that were meta portraits or sometimes reminiscent of historical battles depicted on deerskins or echoing ledger art, mixed with art forms of ancient KMT & tipis on display as well. They were somewhat unnerving, for it was like an unknown Spirit had excavated my interior landscape & reproduced it for all eyes to see. And I will leave it at that for now, for there’s far more concerning this work that I wish to explore…A’ho*
(By Frohawk Two Feathers)
Many moons ago, I worked at the Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture of the New York Public Library system — in the last days of the tenure there of my hometown hero Ellis Haizlip, onetime host of the best television show ever: SOUL! I was seeing Mr. Haizlip’s ghost ’round every corner, strolling around in his typical dashiki & tailored slacks, last night @ the Schomburg even before his name was invoked by an elder audience member after the Black Banjo event we were in attendance at the Langston Hughes Auditorium: Banjo Stories & Songs From Haiti & New Orleans, featuring my acquaintance Laurent Dubois (a banjo-playing, Belgian-American scholar from Duke University; I did a talk with him @ CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown back in the spring for the release of his new Harvard tome: The Banjo – America’s African Instrument) & my new friend Leyla McCalla, the Haitian-American banjoist who resides in New Orleans singing songs in English, French, Kreyol & the lone member of my friends’ band the Carolina Chocolate Drops that I had yet to meet. The cited episode of SOUL! featured Taj Mahal (ex-Rising Sons) doing an entire suite of banjo & ole-timey music, talking about the instrument’s African origins and encouraging youngbloods to take up the instrument; this aired back when I was a babychile and obviously there remains a stark racial & generational divide regarding banjo players when the instrument is trendy primarily amongst white Millennials who adopted it after the release of the Coen Brothers’ pastoral pastiche film O! Brother Where Art Thou? with its peerless ole-timey/Americana soundtrack, and the rise of these bands in the Aughts: Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers (I was one of the first to cover them as a rock/country critic alongside the Carolina Chocolate Drops, as they were emerging from the North Carolina Piedmont), & Old Crow Medicine Show. Nothing against these bands & the untimely passing of Pete Seeger has also played a role – indeed, he looms large in Laurent’s book — but we still have high hopes that young black kids will get hip to the banjo & take up our decades of work in keeping the black twang musical traditions thriving. I was interviewed for Joaquin Cotler’s podcast on these issues after Leyla’s performance, at the Schomburg; I will share it when it airs.
My dear #BlackHillbilly / twang family of the Ebony Hillbillies were also special guests like myself & we were in high cotton, enjoying the themes and music of the program. The Ebony Hillbillies generously performed at the Standing Rock benefit I curated @ Decolonize This Place back at the dawn of October; I look forward to future collaborations with them — and now — also with Sistah Leyla.
The banjo was my favorite instrument even before I knew of its African roots & I still hope to take it up — possibly in 2017, since I have been invited to the Danny Barker banjo festival in New Orleans by the guitarist/banjoist Detroit Brooks Sr. of jazz titan Donald Harrison’s band who does a lot of outreach in his community and beyond to keep black banjo traditions alive. Black artists (& the Afropolitan ones trying to appropriate southern accents and songlines in the UK) in country music are not a novelty nor a trend; whatever the outcome for current youtube sensation Kane Brown, who’s an Afro-Native (Tsalagi)/biracial country singer from rural Georgia in the “bro” mold (Young Kane & I have several thangs in common), we are here to stay. So #SaddleUp!
( Leyla McCalla of New Orleans & Kandia Crazy Horse of Hudson Canyon, Sistahs of Twang, @ Schomburg Center, Harlem NYC )
( Kandia Crazy Horse & Kimberly Robison, Virginia Native American songbirds/activists of Cactus Rose + Gloria Gassaway, Catawba lead vocalist/bones player/activist of the Ebony Hillbillies (from South Carolina) – We southern belles love to gather, do actions for #StandingRock & sing to honor our Ancestors. Miz Gloria almost went out to Standing Rock last week with our heroine Pure Fe of Ulali; we hope to combine our efforts & make a sojourn together soon come – A’ho* )
(Throwback to last Thursday night in SoHo @ Morrison Hotel Gallery for private view of Neil Young: Long May You Run exhibit, featuring photographs by Henry Diltz, Joel Bernstein, Danny Clinch & others. Here I am “waging heavy peace” with Henry’s famed image of my hero Neil & his dog Harte in the barn door of his ranch in California, Broken Arrow (named after my favorite Buffalo Springfield native american-themed tune & a Delmer Daves western from the early 1950s), from the year I was born, NYC)
Here’s a photo shot by one of the Jack Shainman Gallery’s gallerinas from yesterday: visual artist Carrie Mae Weems & (me) sonic artist Kandia Crazy Horse @ their space on W. 20th Street in Chelsea, for the opening of her new exhibits (see description below). Carrie & I used to share workspace way back many moons ago when I attended Hampshire College & she was teaching there. Nice to see how far our respective Creation has come & find now in her a fellow fan of my Afrohippie & bluegrass singer-songwriter heroine/inspiration Claudia Lennear — two vintage yet manipulated images, “Blue Notes,” of Claudia are featured in the show.
Via Jack Shainman Gallery PR: “Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to announce Carrie Mae Weems’ first solo exhibition in New York City since the historic retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2014. Her influential career continues to address the rifts caused by race, class, and gender via imagery and text that is both sharply direct and beautifully poetic. This two-part exhibition highlights her recent investigations into performance, entertainment, and history.
Blue Notes (2014) and An Essay on Equivalents, See… (2011-2015) highlight figures on the periphery, bringing them front and center. The photographic series are paired with the enigmatic video installation Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me (2012), originally commissioned by the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA. The work rests on a 19th century optical trick, “Pepper’s ghost,” in which a strategically lit pane of glass reflects people and objects as dematerialized versions on stage. Weems employs this phantasmagoria to examine her own relationship to history and two individuals in particular: the 16th president of the United States and artist/activist Lonnie Graham, her sometime collaborator. Here history becomes theater, a succession of ghostly projections that draw us in to the strange ways in which representation seduces and manipulates, and how some are left out of history altogether, their apparitions left to haunt the expanses of Western culture.
The theme of performance continues with Scenes & Take (2016). Weems dons her black-robed muse persona—recognizable from the now iconic Roaming and Museums series—to stand before empty stage sets, documenting these encounters with vivid color photographs. The contemplative pose of the artist raises issues of who gets to be shown on screen; what do the fictional characters in television, theater, cinema, and visual art say about the cultural climate in which they are created, and how do these representations shift across time?
All the Boys (2016) responds to the recent killings of young African American men and suggests a darker reality of identity construction. Portraits of black men in hooded sweatshirts are matched with text panels. The written descriptions evoke police reports, underscoring how a demographic is all-too-often targeted and presumed guilty by a system plagued with prejudice. […]”
(Shot of “Blue Note – Claudia Lennear” by Kandia Crazy Horse – Originally from an early 1970s Playboy feature on the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter)
Claudia Lennear had famous affairs with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, when she toured with them in 1969 as an Ikette (part of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue), & later with David Bowie during his LA burnout/Sigma Sound Soul phase in Philly – the resulting songs “Brown Sugar,” Claudia’s response “Not At All,” & Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul.” I am personally far more interested in her singing with my most beloved Master of Space & Time Leon Russell (as part of the Shelter People) & Claudia Lennear’s attempt to have a bluegrass trio in the early ’70s with her fellow Mad Dogs & Englishmen Tour veteran singers Donna Washburn (once a member of my most beloved/influence Dillard & Clark) & Donna Weiss (later a songwriter of some note; she had songs covered by, among others, another Mad Dogs star & my heroine/influence as a Native Americana artist, Rita Coolidge – I just recently filed an essay about Ms. Coolidge & this lore, which will be published next year in a tome on Women Of Country). A friend & Southern sonic forebear of mine, the late Memphis pianist/producer icon Jim Dickinson (aka James Luther Dickinson of “Dixie-Fried” & “White Horses”+ producing Big Star’s Third fame) promised to give me a photo of their bluegrass trio, as he was tied to the project, but then he walked on. Still hope to see the images someday! Of course, Claudia is active again, post- Twenty Feet From Stardom rediscovery, and leading two bands — one bluegrass — today in Los Angeles & recording an album David Bowie had sought her out to collaborate on before his passing. Looking forward to catching ’em live whenever I next make it to the Coast. I always do enjoy spending time in LA, amongst the newer Laurel Canyon & Topanga Canyon rock ‘n roll hippie glitterati — although most of them are East Side gentrifiers, particularly in Echo Park & Downtown (with satellites in Eagle Rock & Mt. Washington & out in the environs of Joshua Tree & Bolinas & Nevada City); this is why I always keep dear Odetta (who my late Virginian Native American mother Anne Marie wished for me to model & pick guitar in her image) & Claudia Lennear as my history-making twang foremamas & legendary Ladies of the Canyon.
I still plan to do a major project around the sound+vision of Claudia Lennear, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge & their mutual benefactors, Delaney and Bonnie (& their fabulous Friends) during 2017 – Stay tuned!
(Two #BlackRockCoalition & #AfroPunk veteran chroniclers & rock-n-rollers outside Jack Shainman Gallery, Chelsea: #KandiaCrazyHorse #NativeAmericana #CosmicCountry #singersongwriter & #RobFields #BoldAsLove #blogger & festival founder – #FollowMe on #Instagram: @kandiacrazyhorse)
(LADY OF (HUDSON) CANYON: After Carrie’s opening, upon The Highline in Chelsea, by a fan – More NYC shows upcoming! #LadiesOfTheCanyon)