Descendant Communities

Artists' Spotlight

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Joanne Barker

Lenapehoking: An Imprint, 2021

From the artist: What do I mean by “the land?” I do not mean the land in the terms of capitalism’s inheritable patrilineal estate, the terms of Marx’s property as an alienation from community, or the terms of the Left’s public commons. These lands are not Indigenous land. They belong to European and North American economics, histories, and politics, bound conceptually to patriarchal class hierarchies and their gendered and racial oppressions as well as to the resistance movements that have mobilized against them.

Indigenous land is not property or a public commons; it is a mode of relationality and a related set of ethics and protocols for lived social responsibilities and governance defined within discrete Indigenous epistemologies. As Vine Deloria Jr. (Lakota) argued, the epistemological difference that Indigenous land makes in Indigenous governance and society is its designation of responsibilities, not rights. These responsibilities include ceremonies of reciprocity to specific places, hunting and fishing practices, water access and use, and the terms of human and nonhuman relations.

Because of U.S. imperialism and colonialism—historical and present today—Indigenous relationships and responsibilities to the land are difficult at best. In maintaining life practices that are land based, Indigenous people pit themselves against capitalist valuations of the land and its worth. While Indigenous people may assert rights against settlers and their money, in the terms that authority understands and conditions (blockades of pipelines, divestment campaigns, etc.), rights are a tactic and not the strategy of lived responsibility to the land.

I am Lenape, Turtle Clan. The Lenape were relocated to northeastern Oklahoma, at the end of seven forced relocations by treaty with the United States between 1778and 1866 and an agreement with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in 1867. While currently the Lenape (Delaware Tribe of Indians) possess the legal status and rights of a federally recognized tribe, they have experienced two “termination” carries culture, and culture carries … the entire body of values by which welcome to perceive ourselves and our place in the world.” They have no trust lands or other recognized, organized territory. Their original territory, in what is now the northeastern region of the United States, is called Lenapehoking.

I write from Oakland, of Alameda County, Chochenyo Ohlone territory. The Chochenyo Ohlone are indigenous to the East Bay of San Francisco including Alameda County. Neither the Chochenyo Ohlone nor any of the other Ohlone peoples of the Bay Area are federally recognized, so they do not possess any relative governance or authority over any part of their original territories. As a result of the complicated histories informing this situation, the Ohlone work to revitalize their language without any infrastructural support, and they struggle to protect their cultural sites against development and exploitation without any requirement on the part of the United States to consult or respect.

I claim and am claimed by Lenapehoking. But neither Lenapehoking, Oklahoma, nor Oakland are “my land.” These lands define my relationships and responsibilities. They define my scholarship, activism, fiction, and artwork. They define me.

From Joanne Barker, “Decolonizing the Mind,” Rethinking Marxism, Volume 30, Issue 2

Joanne Barker's website:

Francks F. Décéus  

Morning Light, 2005

This painting is a part of a series titled "Every Day People." Décéus explains:

"This series was inspired by the great migration of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s where large amounts of African Americans relocated to northern cities in search of a better life. Artists like Jacob Lawrence used this subject in great volume, but I was more interested in the outcome of the migration rather than the migration itself. In this body of work I was trying to illustrate the success of those migrants in comparison to the rural south they left behind, as they strive for a better life."

The style and technique used for this artwork, like the others belonging to the same series, has the linearity and straightforwardness of the most successful Native art. The lack of ornamentation and the simplicity of the figures set them apart from the yellow background, giving a penetrating immediacy to each person's story.

Francks F. Décéus was born in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. He currently resides and maintains a studio in Brooklyn. Décéus received a B.A. in sociology from Long Island University, NY, in 1992.

Throughout his artistic career, Décéus' work has marched chronologically from his childhood in Haiti, through his immersion into his new urban community as an immigrant, and recently, to his meditations on a conceptual vision of humanity. He has always been more interested in exploring themes and issues than in making definitive statements or creating a visual language with his art, and his work resonates with political and sociological content.

Stylistically, his work incorporates many of the influences and aesthetic forms of artists like Norman Lewis and Howarddena Pindell, and reverberates with some of the artistic strains of his native Haiti. His modernist style combines figurative, abstract, and layered elements and relies heavily on a simplification of form and function. His work is characterized by a semiotic economy, minimalist use of imagery, and a deliberately limited palette range within series of work.

Francks F. Décéus' website:

Richard Haas

Yonkers: A Multifaceted and Multinational City of Hills Seen Through the Centuries

From the artist: This painting looks over a Yonkers that rises from the bottom of the canvas upwards through time and space, from buildings from its earliest European habitation to a city of a far more complex and intricate nature.  In the lower part of the painting, we see the water wheels and lumber mills of the Philipse family along with an early version of St. John's church, and to the left their home, now known as Philipse Manor Hall.  

Above and around this I have depicted many houses of worship which suggest the rich and varied communities that developed during the 1800s and into the 1900s as Yonkers became an industrial, commercial and transportation hub. Government is represented by City Hall and culture is represented by the Hudson River Museum, as well as an image of the early (and demolished) Carnegie library, Untermyer Gardens and some other former societal structures.

The upper part of the painting is dominated by the tremendous variety of architecture of the homes which dominate the many hills and valleys of Yonkers. We see everything from the clusters of housing complexes and apartments on the right mixed in with, at times, earlier existing homes of many styles from all periods. On the upper left are mansions from Park Hill which will be recognizable to anyone acquainted with Yonkers’ architectural glory days. Showing some of lost Yonkers is important to include in the architectural narrative to show a city in flux and experiencing constant change, growth and evolution.  To me, the city’s architecture touches on much of Yonkers history without a need to feature specific important individuals from the city’s present or past.

Richard Haas has lived in Yonkers for over forty years andhas a studio in New York City. He describes himself as an artist, muralist,architect and city planner. His trompe l'oeil method are often used to “trickthe eye” into thinking there are architectural elements on a blank wall. Hismurals are featured in cities and towns throughout the United States oftenbringing to life blank walls, transforming neighborhoods into works of art. Click here to watch a CBS Sunday Morning interview with Richard Haas.

Richard Haas' website:

To identify which building is which in this painting, download the key below.

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