The Museum of Fine Arts revisited the metaphor “Life begins in the Garden” at it’s Huntington Avenue entrance. The Cultural Hub, recognized by it’s focal point monument, ‘Appeal to the Great Spirit’, is an ideal setting to seed conversations about the history of Native Americans.
Elizabeth James-Perry, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe, created ‘Raven Reshapes Boston: A Native Corn Garden at the MFA,’ as part of the ‘Garden for Boston’ exhibit. Her installation of stalks and shells frames the MFA’s iconic statue of spirit with organic perspective. Following ancient traditions, James-Perry, with others, planted corn kernels in mounds as a visual reminder of how Mother Nature gives life. Quahog shells symbolize celebrations of sea-harvests and times with members of other tribes who used the land, now occupied by the Museum, as an ancestral meeting place.
The power of this simple installation is in it’s authenticity. Elizabeth James-Perry adds the experiences of Indigenous Peoples to the complex history of America. Colonial Settlers did not discover “The New World “, they moved into a well-established community. Those native to America shared the land and wisdom of their ancestors with newcomers.
By reshaping the landscape of the MFA , Raven’s Corn Garden reshapes our thoughts on the humanity of Native American lives. The enhanced focal-point helps us to contextualize landmarks of Colonialism and respectfully include the histories of Indigenous Peoples without bias. The inter-play between the monumental statue and the Indigenous Garden encourage new dialogues with the spirits of Peoples past, present and future.
A tandem but independent exhibit in the “Garden for Boston” is ‘Radiant Community‘ by Ekua Holmes. Installed at the MFA and other neighborhood sites ”Radiant Community is an expansive grouping of sunflowers; a metaphor for resilience, self-determination and evolution in Black communities.
The spirit of American history begins in the ‘Garden for Boston’ .