Wíwənikan…the beauty we carry is an exhibition of contemporary art of the First Nations people of what is now Maine and Maritime Canada. Collectively known as the Wabanaki, the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Abenaki, our people have lived in and paddled through our homeland for thousands of years.
Wíwənikan is the Penobscot word for portage. Used when traveling by canoe, portages allow us to get around obstacles, to bypass water too dangerous to paddle, or to connect to a neighboring watershed. Once ashore, canoes are emptied and decisions are made—who is strong enough to carry the heaviest things, what will be left behind for others to pick up, what will we circle back for later.
Like a river journey, our history over the last five hundred years, can be marked by a series of portage points in time: European contact and trade, colonization, international borders through our territories, and settlers that altered the landscape and rivers so that the hunting and gathering were no longer viable. At each of these points, our ancestors made decisions, just as today, about what traditions to carry forward. Basketmakers, canoe makers, carvers, painters, and beadworkers, the artists in this exhibition are the strong ones, carrying the beauty of their ancestors and culture into the future.
Wíwənikan…the beauty we carry is guest curated by Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot basketmaker and beadworker; and Kathleen Mundell, director of Cultural Resources, Inc. Curatorial advisors Gretchen Faulkner, director of the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine, and Theresa Secord, a Penobscot basketmaker and member of the Museum’s Board of Governors, consulted on the exhibition. In addition, the curators collaborated with a team of community advisors: James Francis (Penobscot), Suzanne Greenlaw (Maliseet), Brenda Moore Mitchell (Passamaquoddy), Jennifer Pictou (Micmac), and Frances Soctomah (Passamaquoddy). Julia Gray served as project manager.