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SANTA FE, NM-In a first-time collaboration funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Native American and Southern African artists and designers will share a fashion runway to kick off an initiative using art as the catalyst for economic development on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Native people in both areas are facing a lot of the same challenges,” Megan Minoka Hill, senior development office for the Achein Center for Lifelong Education, Research and Cultural Center in Santa Fe, tells GSR. With the Battle Creek, MI-based Kellogg Foundation as the liaison, the institute’s Achein Center team is bringing together more than 80 artists and fashion designers from both continents as one of the opening acts for the Santa Fe Indian Market, set for Aug. 19-21.

The runway showing, Tribal Fusions, is expected to draw a full house for the 400-seat event at the historic La Fonda Hotel in Downtown Santa Fe. Seven acclaimed fashion designers from both continents will participate. “Everyone benefits when different cultures come together to explore indigenous art and fashion,” says Dr. Peter Delaporte of the Kellogg Foundation’s African office.

Tribal Fusions also coincides with the “Answers Lie Within” exchange in which elders and artists will explore ways to heighten global awareness of indigenous art. In addition to fashion designers, about 80 sculptors, painters, jewelry makers, weavers and writers will meet from Aug. 15-23 to develop transoceanic initiatives to benefit their peoples. “We are allowing space for this conversation to happen and talk about marketing strategies,” Hill explains.

Tribal Fusions is designed to be the hallmark event for the exchange as well as kick off opening day of the Santa Fe Indian Market, which last attracted more than 100,000 buyers, spectators, collectors and gallery owners. The event, with 1,200 vendors, generates about $20 million annually in sales in two days, according to Hill. Sponsored by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the market, now in its 80th year, is considered the premier event for indigenous art in North America.

Tribal Fusions’ North American designers will be Patricia Michaels of Taos, NM and a member of the Taos Pueblo; Dorothy Grant of Vancouver, Canada, Kaigani Haida of the Raven clan from the Brown Bear house of Howkan; Marcus Amerman of Santa Fe, Choctaw tribe; and Virginia Ballenger, Flagstaff, AZ, Navaho tribe. The Southern Africa notables are Judy Henshell of Bongani Creations, Meropa Heritage; Joyce Nyasha Chimanye of Zimbabwe; and Lucia Pinto of Mozambique. The rest of the Southern African contingent will include designers from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The “Answers Lie Within” exchange’s line-up includes Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, M. Scott Momaday of Jemez Springs, NM, and internationally acclaimed painters Vigil Gray, Kevin Redstar and Dan Namingha, of Santa Fe and Tony Abeyta of Taos, NM. Attending elders will be the Honorable Wilma Mankiller of Oklahoma, former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, and Henrietta Mamm of Bozman, MT, of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe.

Hill says the idea was spawned by institute president Della Warrior, who began discussions in January with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation about the prospects of creating a global network for indigenous artists. The idea secured funding in March for a three-year program to develop marketing strategies for artists from both continents. “We are looking for ways to stimulate and bolster economic development and bring new streams of wealth into indigenous communities,” Hill stresses, hinting next year could add more countries now that the seed’s been planted.

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