November has been “Native American Heritage Month” since 1990 and ironically the growing right-wing extremism of the intervening decades appears to have further erased our collective knowledge of native peoples – so it’s the perfect time to find this new campaign on the streets of New York by Street Artist LMNOPI.
A self-started campaign similar to many done by the artist in the last decade, this one is more closely in alignment with the rights of indigenous people. These new wheat-pasted works are in Manhattan and Brooklyn – the large ones hand-made and one of a kind, the smaller ones mostly silkscreen prints.
On a Bushwick door you’ll encounter a member of Dongria Kondh, an Indigenous tribe that lives in the Nayamgiri mountains of eastern India, the artist tells us.
“They’ve been living on that mountain since the beginning of time as far as they know and in fact believe the mountain is God and it gave birth to them, millenniums ago. They are still living a simple sustenance lifestyle gathering food and medicine from the forest. Making their shelters from the forest. They have fiercely resisted a corporation called Vedanta who wishes to mine their mountain for Bauxite; to make aluminum.”
Nakoa Wolf Momoa is the image of the young fella making a hand signal – which is actually a symbol of Mauna Kea, a sacred site for the Kanaka ‘Oiwi (Native Hawaiian). Multinationals have disregarded the Mauna Kea and have built telescopes on their native lands and are now laying plans to build a large one there.
“Building this telescope would violate ‘free, prior and informed consent’,” says the Street Artist, “as laid out by the United Nations in regard to Indigenous Communities worldwide.”
“There has been an encampment; a blockade of the road that leads to the summit for many months now.”
In one sense of modern New York movie/rap-lyric lore, you assume that Brooklyn is soaked with blood. Truthfully, the origins of the borough is less about mobsters and more about invasion. most people don’t talk about the native peoples who first lived here, like this portrait framed inside a bricked window in Bushwick.
“He’s a reminder to all who pass here that the land here was stolen from the original inhabitants,” says the artist. In fact it was the Lenape people who lived in the area known as the Canarsee. Lenapehoking was the name of the entire region in and around NYC before the Dutch colonized it (ed. note: I write this as I sit in Amsterdam).
LMNOPI tells us,“Many of the main roads that exist now, like Bushwick Avenue, for example, were built on top of Native trails. It’s good to acknowledge these things and to think about them as we go about our days.”
LMNOPI says there are 228 stickers made to highlight the plight of immigrant kids at the border at the hands of US officials. LMNOPI (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Finally we have Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist who has received so much international attention in the last year or so. “She has managed to mobilize literally millions of youth and adults worldwide to demand action on the climate crisis,” says th artist. “She represents a marginalized community of people on the spectrum of autism. She calls it her ‘super power’.”