The A:shiwi have always had maps. We have maps in songs and prayers, painted on ceramics, and etched in stone. Our maps aid our memories and give reference to our places of origin – places we have visited and places we hope to go. Names of places within our territory have been passed-down from generation to generation, but in the past 500 years we have been re-mapped. What was once known as Sunha:kwin K’yabachu Yalanne is now called the San Francisco Peaks, and many people now call Heshoda Ts’in”a by the name Pescado. However, there is an indigenous mapping movement growing around the world, reinforcing indigenous knowledge of ancestral lands and describing the world as a cultural landscape. Through the A:shiwi Map Art initiative, the AAMHC is helping to advance this movement and reverse certain distortions of Zuni history.
The A:shiwi Map Art is an art, language and place name project all in one. Sixteen Zuni artists were commissioned to create paintings representing significant Zuni landscapes and places.
Initially, Zuni advisors got together to decide what would be culturally appropriate to include within the maps and what would not. They then developed lists of potential places they thought Zuni community members should be familiar with and visited these places along with the artists, providing them with history and context that enriched the artist’s knowledge about the sites they were commissioned to represent. The result is a collection of thirty-one paintings in-service to the Zuni community and the larger world; a tool to help our community to connect to our places through artistic renderings of Zuni cultural landscapes.
A:shiwi Map Art is a collective, revisionist effort to elaborate Zuni history and cultural survival independent from the non-Zuni narrative, using Zuni language and Zuni aesthetics and sensibilities. These maps help us understand where we came from and why Zuni culture is associated with places far away from our reservation. They also harness the capacity of visual art to communicate in accessible fashion the importance of Zuni cultural landscape in perpetuation of community vitality and values. Finally, as tools that help set the record straight, these maps serve as a means to mutual understanding by asserting that we live in a world with diverse ways of knowing.