Kansas City is filled with so many entertainment options that we struggle trying to cover them all. When our daughter suggested a brunch outing, I decided to look for something out of the ordinary. Since we are all lovers of art, a visit to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art was a perfect fit. This free attraction offers amazing rotating galleries, as well as an exceptional indoor eatery. At the time of our visit, the list of exhibits included one focused on the Native Indians losing their voice in the modern world. This intrigued us, since we are fans of North American history and enjoy learning about our country’s earliest residents.
Our visit was late on a Sunday morning, so brunch was a perfect choice. Our daughter had sampled meals from Café Sebastienne in the past, but this would be our first experience. With the rules of COVID in place, we were required to plan a timed visit. While it sounds a little restrictive, in reality, it is fairly simple. You can schedule online, by selecting the starting time of your visit. Then you check-in when you arrive, and that’s it. Our first stop was the restaurant, which has spaced out the tables to provide appropriate social distancing.
We don’t eat at every museum we visit, but from what we had heard, this was one not to be missed. After ordering our meals, we found a table. In short order, the server delivered our array of dishes. Crystal and Amanda each ordered the Biscuits & Lamb Chorizo Gravy. The addition of roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, and crispy bacon makes it a huge amount of food. I snuck a bite of the biscuit, which has a delightfully airy texture. My serving of French Toast included a side of crispy bacon, as well as a trio of toppings. It was hard to decide whether the maple syrup, Cara Cara orange marmalade, or Maple Ice Cream ended up being the best accompaniment. We finished our meal with a serving of Sweet Potato Whoopie Pie, which had an added crunch of fried hominy bits.
Once our hunger had been satiated, it was time to explore the spaces. The Kemper offers up six galleries that each showcase 8 to 12 exhibits per year. This means that each visit is a little different from the last. They also have a permanent collection that includes the works of artists featuring a global perspective of modern art. While the Kemper Museum is much smaller than its neighbor, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, both are in close proximity to each other. This means that they make a good dual museum outing.
The main exhibit, during our visit, was a feature by Minneapolis artist Dyani White Hawk. Her Lakota ancestry gives her an interesting perspective of Native Indian culture. Many of her pieces are created with a mixture of Native and non-Native education systems. She uses her art to highlight the issues faced by Indigenous people throughout North America. Her pieces often use subtle patterns and textures, which reflect the shapes of art created by Native Lakota women.
Dyani has moved beyond the canvas to create a series of mixed media pieces. Her Carry series highlights the disparity shown to native Indian women as they continue losing their voice as artists. Usually, the pieces created by these women are considered crafts, instead of being seen for their artistic value. The Carry grouping is comprised of a series of copper vessels and ladles. Each is artfully decorated with buckskin, and amazing beadwork. It is hard to imagine someone not seeing the artistic beauty in these pieces, which mimic vessels that have been created for generations.
Losing Their Voice
In a separate hall, they host the series titled I Am Your Relative, which is Hawk’s newest body of work. A mixture of photographs and audio-visual pieces are used to highlight a concerning trend with Native languages. Before colonialism spread to the New World, there was an estimated 300 different languages spoken by native peoples. The arrival of Europeans not only included the forced removal from their lands, but the demand of the use of the English language. Today there are only about 167 indigenous languages still being used. If this trend of Native tribes losing their voice continues, it has been estimated that by 2050 only about 20 will remain. This is just one example of how the perspective of Native Indian women has changed over time.
Dyani hopes that by using her artwork as a platform, she can shed light on the disparity faced by Native American women. In the past, these women would have been highly respected and often shared in the decision-making responsibilities for the tribes. Fast forward to today, and Native American women are more likely to be assaulted than any other demographic. In fact, it is estimated that 84% of Native American women have experienced violence. Much of this came from non-tribal members. While this change shows a dangerous trend, it is often overlooked by mainstream media. Americans as a whole can often be so absorbed in their own little worlds, that we neglect to recognize the plight of others.
Stop, Look, and Listen
Exhibits, like this gallery by Hawk, remind us that we must be diligent about the perils faced by others. Recently, our state elected one of the two Native American women who sit in the House of Representatives. We hope that this is a sign that Americans are beginning to realize the need to improve the circumstances faced by Native tribes. This particular exhibit will run through mid-May, at the Kemper Museum. It’s a powerful display that should be experienced by all ages. In fact, Kemper Museum helps families enjoy their visit by offering a monthly scavenger hunt for the kids. Now that we know about this, we will need to plan an outing with our grandchildren.
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