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Ayo Engel-Halfkenny

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Artist Statement

Art has always played a profound role in my life in giving me the means to express both my physical and intangible experiences. I love and have always loved art in all its manifestations (music, poetry, dance, etc.), but have developed a connection with visual art, namely sculpture and sketching. Though I tend toward creating more abstract depictions when I draw, when I sculpt, my subjects range from wire trees to skateparks made of playing cards. It is important for me to use art, not just to create something beautiful or expressive, but also as a form of activism. Through my art I hope to provoke thought, inspire action, and draw attention to issues I care about and strive to fight for. This type of activism has the unique ability to visually convey otherwise intangible topics, such as emotions and experiences.


When thinking about the history of oppression in the United States, many people first think of slavery in the 1600’s, but in fact oppression began over a century prior with the brutal genocide of Native Americans, the effects of which have been worsened and exacerbated in the 500 years following. Especially now with growing widespread attention towards how Black people experience racism and discrimination in the US, Indigenous people are frequently left out of the discussion, and therefore of the resolutions that follow. And is that not the ultimate victory of the colonizer? To have those they oppressed be forgotten? That is what I wanted to address in this piece. How despite the relentless oppression they’ve faced for longer than any other people on this soil, they remain stronger. They are not a conquered people.


The woman depicted is Angela Miracle Gladue (Frog Lake), a dancer and performer with the DJ group A Tribe Called Red (ATCR) whom I have loved since I was 10. ATCR is comprised of two First Nations DJ’s; Tim “2oolman” Hill (Mohawk), and Ehren “Bear Witness” Thomas (Cayuga). Their music combines EDM, dubstep, and reggae with traditional First Nations Powow chants and drumming (a.k.a. Powow Step).

Additional Artwork

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