Dyani White Hawk on I Am Your Relative

Dyani White Hawk, I Am Your Relative, 2020, created in collaboration with photographer Tom Jones

She Gives, Dyani White Hawk’s solo exhibition at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, shares its name with a series of paints White Hawk created to celebrate contributions of Native women in art and the health of our communities. On view through October 3, 2020, works in the exhibition open up conversation about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic, reinscribing Indigenous people into western art history, and the murder of George Floyd. For BOMB magazine, writer Sheila Regan speaks with White Hawk about key works in the exhibition, including I Am Your Relative (2000):

I had been asked to speak at a fundraising gala for Global Rights for Women two years ago. I recruited friends and family, and I made T-shirts that said, “I am more than your desire. I am more than your fantasy. I am more than a mascot. I am ancestral love prayer sacrifice. I am your relative.” I asked each woman to come up and introduce herself and say her name, her passion, what she does in an effort to try to further humanize each of them as individuals, as women, as contributors to our society, and as contributors to their communities.

The photographic installation for me serves a similar purpose. The audience walks into a gallery and is faced with this lineup of photographs that are life-size. You’re forced to reckon with their humanity. It’s in the middle of the space as opposed to on a wall so you get a fuller, rounder presentation of their humanity. The whole concept of “I am your relative” is rooted in a Lakota philosophy and understanding of our relatedness. It’s a guiding value and how we treat one another and all life.