Using art to re-frame history

June 1, 2012

     If you have seen a small white sign in Cherokee and the surrounding area, proclaiming in the Cherokee syllabary and in English, “We are still here,” then you have seen the latest work by artist Jeff Marley. The signs are part of a larger project that he hopes will create a new conversation about history and Native peoples.

One of Marley's signs is displayed at Judacilla Rock.

     Marley has been working as an artist for almost 20 years. His latest work with the signs represents a dramatic shift away from the more traditional painting and drawing he is known for. “Art is a tool for change, it doesn’t always have to hang on the wall or sit on a shelf.”

     “My goal for this project is to reframe how we think about and question our history,” said Marley. “Instead of seeing history as something static and inactive, history is something that is created each day; it is participatory by nature.”

     The signs are small at 12 x 18 inches, and very simple. “The signs themselves are meant to be small, a visual metaphor of marginalization, ” commented Marley.

     In the Cherokee language, they proclaim, “Si otsedoha” and underneath the translation in English, “We are still here.” “It is a statement not only for the Cherokee, but everyone in the community that calls western North Carolina home. We are still here, keeping our traditions and customs alive. We need to pass this on to future generations so they understand the importance of being aware of our neighbors and working together.”

Another of Marley's signs graces an historical marker in Old Fort.

   Marley received his Bachelors of Fine Art from Western Carolina University in 2005 and is currently pursuing his Masters in Fine Art at Vermont College of Fine Arts. More information about Jeff Marley and his work are available on the web at www.jeffmarley.com or by emailing jeff@jeffmarley.com.

- OICA