Uŋčekhiha Wins the Great Race.

Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis MN
Rosy Simas Danse and Intermedia Arts presents
Skin(s) Visual Art Exhibition

The Great Race | Skin(s) Exhibition

Location: Intermedia Arts Center, Minneapolis, MN | Date: October 11-November 5, 2016

Part of the Rosy Simas’ Skin(s) exhibition included me painting a 24″ mural (in less than 10 hours, by myself!).  The mural illustrated the traditional Dakota/Lakota creation story, The Great Race.

When the Great Spirit created the earth and all living things upon it, the people and animals lived in peace. Neither people or animals ate flesh.  One day though, the Buffalo people decided they would be at the top of the animal hierarchy, and begin to eat the other animals.  Humans disagreed with them and asked for a race to determine the order of society.  So, for the race, every animal painted themselves in their special color (which is why every animal today looks the way it does).

Humans said having four legs was unfair, so the winged animals stepped for humans in the race.  The buffalo chose Running Slim Buffalo Woman as their contestant. She was a young cow who was the fastest of all animals and had never been beaten in a footrace The human beings chose four birds to race for them: a hummingbird, a meadowlark, a hawk and a magpie.

During the race, each bird slowly fell behind and humans for sure thought they had lost.  But at the very last second, magpie raced ahead.  Today Dakota/Lakota people still recognize the magpie as the champion!


Skin(s) is an exhibition of artworks by Minnesotans who express multi-dimensional identities from Dakota, Ojibwe, Ponca, Lakota, Navajo, and other indigenous nations. Part of a larger project including dance, film, and a web media project, the Skin(s) exhibition features the work of Hilary Abe, Carolyn Lee Anderson, James Autio, Julie Buffalohead, Andrea Carlson, Elizabeth Day, Aza Erdrich, Marlena Myles, Jonathan Thunder, Maggie Thompson, Rory Wakemup, Dyani White Hawk, and Marne Zafar, and is curated by Heid E. Erdrich. These paintings, prints, sculptures, and films reveal the power and diversity of urban Native artists.

The Great Race Mural at Intermedia Arts
The Great Race Mural at Intermedia Arts

Skin(s) visual art exhibit was one of my favorite I’ve ever worked on. Too many artists to list, but one part that thrilled me was seeing Marlena Myles, who is Dakota, create a mural on a 24 foot wall that told a Dakota story.

As part of the work for Skin(s), I wrote a poem and the composer recorded my voice speaking the poem and reading facts from web pages. My voice was abstracted to form a layer of sound that the dancers moved to at one point in the performance. My words were also projected, along with Rosy’s film, onto the dancers. Together we explored the notion of what our skins tell about us, how we relate to one another when we are all so different looking, and how we identify.

Heid E. Erdrich

February to November, 2016, THE CONVERSANT.

Skin(s) shares the beauty and diversity of how Native people identify and examines the contradictions, pride, joy, pain, and sorrow that arise out of our many dimensions of identity. The dance explores what we hold, reveal, and perceive through our skin. Skin(s) is a series of participatory experiences for artists, community and audiences employing a Native circular model of creation (birth-life-death-birth). I am eliminating the concept of a premiere and in cyclical fashion creating (research-rehearsal-discussion-performance-research) during residencies. In this way Skin(s) will be a continually evolving work in which community and audience are informing and observing the process as it evolves.

Rosy Simas

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