How to Reimagine Native Creative Economies
By Lee Francis IV | Owner, Native Realities LLC
April 24, 2019
Photo of artist Rod Velarde, Indigenous Comic Con 2016
The Land of Mañana. It implies an ease of life; one in which you have no cares or worries till tomorrow. It’s a phrase of warmth and sunsets, of living life at a different speed. It’s a beautiful descriptor of New Mexico and by extension, Albuquerque.
But over time new narratives are formed. Ease becomes torpor. Lack of cares becomes a lack of energy. And the heat of the afternoon becomes an oppressive weight sapping the strength of even the heartiest of spirits.
As a city, we are a mix of these swirling narratives. Sometimes the negatives overwhelm, leading us to doubt the wonder and brilliance of our city.
At Native Realities, we look at unleashing creative narratives from the Indigenous imagination. Using popular culture as the vehicle for this creative expression, we have worked with a number of Native artists who have rejected negative stereotypes and disparaging narratives in favor of superheroes and space rangers. Bit by bit, we scratch away at the corrosive narratives until we can see the slivers of the pulsing, dynamic narratives beneath.
But this work is not limited to comic books and pop culture. Every Native smith who coaxes metal and rock into intricate beauty, every Native weaver who illuminates a canvas of time and tradition, every sculptor who molds creation in their palms contributes to this positive and powerful narrative that ties us back to the traditional people of this land.
Ultimately, it is this deeply rooted creativity and artistry that sparks the imagination. It stokes the fire that helps all of us to remember the ancient stories of passion and excitement. These stories draw us to a time long ago when the possibilities were endless.
The key to changing narratives, especially those that trap us in doubt and despair, is to embrace the creativity and beauty that sparks our soul; to draw from the rich traditions of the first Peoples of Albuquerque in building sustainable and just communities. Communities that focus on collaboration and networking as a central component to innovation and success. In many ways, this idea emulates the work of City Alive, the Albuquerque initiative to build a robust network of supportive entities, dedicated to changing narratives and empowering entrepreneurs.
This empowerment also includes supporting the arts, both Native and non-Native, which needs to become a part of the narrative as ingrained as eating, sleeping and dreaming. Through this support we can build a new economic narrative, one that emulates the spirit of a people and cultivates an organic and sustainable economy; an economy built to last.
In this way, the Land of Mañana is not a malaise or a burden, but rather the continuous promise of a brilliant tomorrow.