Friday, April 17, 2020

The POWHATAN MUSEUM : A StudioVisit-1

Catalog photo with wall sculpture, "Olokun," for the Faculty Exhibition, 
Department of Art, College of Fine Arts, Howard University (1981).

© 2020 by Michael Auld

Sitting in my studio multitasking.

 This current pandemic has presented an opportunity to reflect on a *1492 holocaust that began to take many lives of the people in my Caribbean homeland. We are the survivors of that world-altering event. 

So was my wife's mainland Amerindian family. 

I married into a very large Native American descended family indigenous to the Nation’s Capital, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Nantucket Island. They are from long-distance travelers from both the Powhatan Confederacy (known as a Native kingdom by the 17th century English, and Princess Pocahontas' people), as well as the Wampanoag traditional whalers of Massachusetts, called "People of the First Light" because of their easternmost location off the coast of the North American continent.  The family includes over 30-odd… and counting... Accomplished artistic souls. Their talents are arts law and art therapy to music; visual, medical and performing arts; writers of books and TV series; to acting as Native extras in documentary and blockbuster productions. Our son played a "Zone One warrior" in the "New World" movie (seen pointing at Captain John Smith's arriving ship in the first scene). While his mom played a clan mother (next to Colin Farrell) in that motion picture, and in the HBO miniseries, "John Adams." She acted as the wailing Natik (Wampanoag) mother of Crispus Attucks, the "first man (bi-racial) to fall" in the American Revolution.

 Since the mid1980s, my works have been based on research in our hemisphere's Indigenous and relocated peoples, their aesthetics, mythologies, spiritual beliefs and resilience. Things I was not taught in my formative years. I see my task as one of retrieving and renewing ancient knowledge, then providing contemporary visual interpretations of my findings.

MY ART: Reflecting on our forefathers

My Taíno silkscreen print that represents my philosophy as an artist. It is the THE PRIMORDIAL CAVE/WOMB with Deminán Caracacoal, one of the Four Sons "who came from Itiba Ca-hu-baba, THE BLEEDING, ANCIENT ONE" (the FIFTH EARTH MOTHER). The print shows the cesarean birth of the four-fathers or four races of humankind ripped out of the cave of Caciba-jagua, Cave of the **Jagua (genep tree, as Jamaicans call the fruit that was used as a sacred black body and cloth dye).The number "4", like the Circle (of life,) is sacred to many Amerindians. [It also represents the colors of the cardinal "Four Directions," each ascribed a color. Red, the East's life force, = blood and the rising sun; Black, the West's mysterious color, = the sacred night: White = the cold North; Yellow = the South's warm winds.]


I am thinking of...

"The Land of My Inheritance"
(A term taken from the Taíno Great Flood story that refers to the god Yaya, the Supreme Being, who had gone to his conucos or gardens, "the lands of his inheritance." The story says that behind Yaya's back, Deminan and his three brothers had done a mischief that caused the flood that created the Caribbean Sea or Bagua.)   

Me at three months, (1943) Kingston, Jamaica. 

I was born in the Caribbean. My family name, Auld (as in Auld Lang Syne), comes from the Old Ones, 12th century Old English traders who moved to Perth, Scotland. They probably came under the protection of my mother's Campbell clan. 

As reflected in my work as an artist, it has included elements of the research of my  heritages. To me, art must reflect a continuity of life. For this reason, in my formative years, having been steeped in a British Colonial education with a sole emphasis on my English history, as a tri-racial product of Jamaica, I decided to research my two other neglected spiritual heritages, the African and the Amerindian.  




Stories from my childhood and told to children in adulthood. My two dolls, "Anansesem" (AnansiStories) a published folkloric comic strip (1971-1976), books "How Anansi Came to the Americas from Africa,"  part one of the trilogy, "Ticky-Ticky's QUEST," and an website.

"Olokun " the Yoruba God of the Waters, metal, 1980, is from the 
image of a Benin bronze figure with mud-fish legs, a crocodile scepter
and a sword. Olokun is part of a series of my Objects of Power along 
with Ogun, God of Metallurgy, and the father god, Obatala.

"Guardian Spirit: Marcus Garvey," welded steel, etched, inlaid and painted Plexiglass that is based on Ethiopian Guardian Angels. Part of a trilogy of a sculptural installation done in the 1980s to guard the children of Soweto, South Africa when they were being killed for protesting Apartheid.
"GUARDIAN SPIRITS" with details. A triptych installation often portrayed in a circle. 

L-R: Harriet Tubman (American freedom fighter, "Conductor" of the Underground Railroad); Isis or Ast (Egyptian Mother Goddess), Marcus Garvey (Jamaican-born political activist, founder of the United Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League). When exhibited at Fondo del Sol, Museo Multicultural in DC, someone placed coins at the feet of the installation. 

MY TAÍNO PERIOD: Mid 1980s-Now

"Iguana-Boina" is a transitional piece in welded steel, carved and inlaid 
Plexiglass (9' X 4'). The Iguana/Sun is being overtaken by the Black Rain-cloud 
Serpent, the Boina. This was my move to the use of natural materials for the 
sake of Amerindian aesthetics. Photographed against the back wall of Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where it was made.

"He Who Does Not Blink", a silkscreen print (December, 2013) is an interpretation of the Taíno Origin Story of Mácacael (see above) and the Iguana-Boina, the concept of the SOURCE OF LIFE. The serrated back of the iguana represented the sun’s rays of a lizard who absorbs warmth via the sun’s ultraviolet rays (shown here as Iguana-el, Son of the Sun}, and the Boina (Boina-el, Son of the Dark Raincloud serpent), are part of the belief system of the seafaring agriculturalists known collectively as the Taíno. 

"Quic: Homage to the Olmec, People of Rubber." Four views of a mixed media sculpture
(Latex rubber, wood, stone, conch, crocodile teeth, feathers and paint). The symbolism within this life-sized sculpture is to honor the ingenuity and strength of the ancient Olmec civilization of Central Mexico. They invented rubber by vulcanizing the sap of the rubber tree to create the world's first team sport and rubber ball games now enjoyed worldwide in the form of football, soccer, basket and volleyball, tennis, as well as latex gloves, tires and toys.

"Itiba Cahubabathe Fifth Earth Mother giving birth to the Four-Fathers of humankind. Materials: Wood, vines, ceramic, and paint. 1990.

Installation of "Mucaro Behike" or OWL SHAMAN, shape-shifting into Mácacael, HE OF THE EYES THAT DO NOT BLINK, watchman over the Taíno  .1991. Materials: Wood, macaw feathers.  higuera or calabash tree gourd markka and containers with sacred tobacco,  mahisi (maize),  yuca (cassava), aji (chili peppers), beans and other indigenous foods that entered world cuisines after 1492.

"Guahayona in his Canoa," Fondo del Sol Museo Multicultural, Washington, DC exhibit, 2014. Fondo's Director Marc Zuver and author of "The Indian Chronicles," Dr. José Barreiro (Cuban Taíno) at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, and his Native American wife (back turned, viewing the above Mucaro Behike installation ). Photo by one of the family's professional photographers, Camille Pasley.

***My above silkscreen print's interpretation of the continuation of the Travels of Guahayona. It is my theory of the influence on Spain by the Taino's Guahayona epic on the naming of La California by Hernan Cortez. Cortez read the most popular 16th Century novel by a Spaniard named Garci Oronez de Montalvo, published in Seville in 1510. 


**Jobo Tree Spirits

"Tree Mother," Wall sculpture of a work in progress of a new series that is a part of the Jobo and sacred Jagua people, turned into trees by the sun at the Creation.
Materials: Cigar tree (Catalpa, native to the eastern United States), wisteria vines and shell.
Research rationale: This will be, in the tradition of the Taíno, a cemi (zemi) made to honor the trees that were cut down to make way for a building.

Tree Mother's breast, carving in progress for the above wall sculpture.

Finished wall sculpture.


  1. * The 1492 European introduced pandemic initiated the Amerindian Holocaust that brought smallpox, measles and other viruses, "within the first 100-150 years" and beyond, "regions [in the Americas],  "lost 80 percent of populations."--Washington Post  "The Cornovirus Pandemic", April 12, 2020.   Another report stated that the result of that pandemic's decimation of peoples in the Americas caused a cooling of the earth.
  2. **Jagua (haguais a sacred tree from some of the First People in the primordial Caciba (cave) that housed the Taíno and related people. In the Creation story, people were cautioned not to go out into the sunlight, some went out to fish were caught by Guey, the sun, and turned into Jobos (hobos) trees, who are our relatives. 
  3. *** The name of the book was "the 'Exploits of Esplandian,' and it was written as a sequel to the popular Portuguese poem, 'Amadis de Guala'." (Wanda Sabir, San Francisco Bay View). In 1519, after Hernan Cortez had defeated the Mexica (Aztec) Triple Alliance, he went to Baja California where he saw the tall mountains in the distance. He surmised that this was the fabled Island of La California, the abode of Queen Califia, Amazon leader whose only metal was the gold with which they made their weapons. In the novel, La California was located next to the "Terrestrial Paradise," the Spanish term for the Caribbean. Soon after arriving in Kiskeya/Ayti Bohio (Hispaniola) Christopher Columbus had sent Father Ramón Pané to live among the Kiskeya Taíno, who were rebelling against the Spanish for mistreatment. Pané's job was to learn their ways and he recorded the unique story about Guahayona's travels to Matinino and Guanin. 
  4. For an article by our arts lawyer son, Alexei ( for his story on his bi-racial Wampanoag family member's whaling history... see Alexei's article on  “Finding Out You Are Descended from a Fredo”
  5. Washington Post Review