Review by Corinna Lotz
A beautifully-attired Crow Indian stands erect in front of a blank metal container, his craggy features gazing into the distance. He wears a beaded headdress, silvery arm shields, quill breastplate and holds an Eagle feather. Splashed on the wall next to him is a lurid red Coca Cola advert.
The brashness of the logo seems to define everything that he is not. The image spells out a culture clash: global corporation versus a fragile ethnic group. In common with other First Nation tribes, the Crow Indians suffered decimation over more than two centuries as successive governments reduced their land rights.
London-based photographer, Alberto Arzoz has a dream. He wants to forge a two-way cultural bridge between Europeans and Native Communities because, in his view, they both need each other and would benefit greatly from such an exchange. As a first step he is stirring up debate in Europe about the plight and future of indigenous peoples around the world.
He says that a succession of partners have come along the way that in one way or another are slowly making his dream come true. One of those partners is London’s Horniman Museum. The museum, housed in its landmark building in Forest Hill, south London, was originally founded by a Victorian tea trader as a home for his own collection of objects gathered from around the world. Arzoz’s revealing pictures are on view there until 15 October.
But before the Horniman, it was the Foundation of the Peoples of the World in the USA, which encouraged Arzoz’s project. The foundation helps indigenous communities around the world to face the challenges of the modern world and discrimination from central governments with education.
Arzoz’s 40 photographs document the daily, ceremonial and spiritual life of the Crow Indians in the context of contemporary mainstream American life. The Crow tribe has around 12,000 members who live on a reservation in the state of Montana.
“Despite the efforts of their elders,” Arzoz says, “Crow Indians are slowly being assimilated into the lifestyle of mainstream America without being able to participate in it. Yet the Crow still have a dream to protect their own rights and become an independent and self-sufficient entity with the power to guide their own destiny.”
21 August 2006