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“Bambi is Native”

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Collaborators’ Q&A

When you consider the full folio of work from this issue (see the “related broadsides” links on the left), what questions, observations, or connections arise for you? 
Poet Alica Mteuzi: The broadsides span a variety of themes, from identity and existential concerns to environmentalism, and showcase diverse art forms including pencil drawing and collage. The collection also offers different cultural perspectives, enriching the discourse with a global dimension. In terms of connections, works like “Bats” and “When I Wasn’t Vanishing” address anxiety and life challenges. “Will flowers grow if they’re watered with tears or blood?” states “An Albo Monstera goes for about $15,000 online” and considers humanity’s relationship with nature and materialism. “Bambi is Native” and “I Put My Fingers In” confront identity against societal norms, and “The Mud Says to the Potter” and “To Let the Light In” ponder spiritual and existential matters. This raises the question: What commentary is being made about consumerism and the environment in works that explore humanity’s relationship with nature and materialism? Overall, the broadsides invite readers to delve deeper and explore the intricate connections between these pieces.
Artist Donna R. Charging: I have observed a mismatch between some of the artwork and the writing in some of the Broadsides. I think that the typography hurts some of the folios (including this one.) I would have used a sans-serif and not crowded the artwork so much.

What inspired you to bring your poem to Broadsided?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: I was drawn to Broadsided’s commitment to the interplay between visual and written art. My poem “Bambi is Native” challenges visual and textual stereotypes about Native identity, making Broadsided an ideal platform.

What drew you to create a visual response to this poem, in particular?
Artist Donna R. Charging: Millian Pham Lien Gang (Broadsided’s Art Editor) asked me to respond, and I have a lot of respect for Millian as an artist and a thinker. When she thought of me for this project, I trusted her completely and moved forward even though I did not completely believe in the writing.

How did this poem come to be?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: The poem was inspired by my own experiences and observations concerning how Native identity is often externally defined. I wanted to assert the autonomy of Native Peoples in defining our own identities, breaking away from non-Native perspectives.
Editor’s note: The artworks in the epigraph are so much a part of the poem’s voice, we wanted to offer a way to view them:  Nicholas Galanin, Things are Looking Native, Native’s Looking Whiter, 2012; Pop Chalee, Blue Deer, 1945.

How did this image come to be?
Artist Donna R. Charging: The iconography of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movie feeding her group’s rebel reconnaissance info to R2D2 takes up a permanent space in my mind. I wanted to mash that up with the idea of Bambi as a living deer, as if R2D2 were a living, sentient being. The “puppet strings” referred to by the writer are not strings at all but lines representing infusions of Universal life energy where everything is connected. This is something I have used throughout my artwork in the past.

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem? Does the artist’s response make you see the poem differently?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: I was hoping an artist would resonate with the themes of agency and self-definition in my poem. In my view, their choice to depict characters with what appear to be puppet-like strings seems to hint at external control and societal influence. This artistic interpretation, as I see it, could amplify the struggle for autonomy and self-determination in the poem. It adds layers of complexity to the themes, challenging societal preconceptions and highlighting the tension between self-definition and external expectations.

Poet to Artist: How did you approach the artistic representation of agency and self-definition in the characters, and what inspired this interpretation?
Artist Donna R. Charging:
I hope my answer about how the image came to be speaks to this.

Artist to Poet: Have you read Tiffany Midge’s poem, “Once Upon a Time”?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: 
Wow, Donna. Háwwih for sharing Tiffany Midge’s poem. It made me see so many parallels and contrasts with my own work and the art you’ve created. Jimmy’s audacity to live freely, unshackled by societal norms, echoes in many of my own narratives and in characters like Bambi and Princess Leia. Just like how Jimmy includes the marginalized in his store, I’m trying to include voices that are often sidelined. I also felt a strong connection with Jimmy’s resistance to capitalism, a theme that feels right at home with Pop Chalee’s and Nicholas Galanin’s work, doesn’t it? Especially in how Galanin challenges ethnocentric beauty standards and confronts colonial violence.

Midge’s poem adds a unique layer to the ongoing dialogue between your art, my work, and the contributions of Chalee and Galanin. As more Indigenous voices join in, the range and impact of our collective discussion continues to grow. I’m excited to see how we’ll influence and inspire each other in the future.

Did anything shift for you or come into new light as you began working on your visual response?
Artist Donna R. Charging: No.

Have you ever written work that has been inspired by visual art? 
Poet Alica Mteuzi: Absolutely. As a filmmaker, the visual medium is integral to my storytelling process. I often draw inspiration from visual art to conceptualize scenes, develop narratives, and even to influence the mood and tone of my films. Visual art offers me a different lens through which to explore themes pertinent to both my culture and the world at large.

Describe your dream “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: On a billboard on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles or off the I-80 Bay Bridge when entering San Francisco; the work might provoke people to reconsider their preconceived notions about Native identity.
Artist Donna R. Charging: On the refrigerator of my old real estate office in Manhattan.

If this Broadsided collaboration were a type of weather, what would it be?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: A late September monsoon in West-Central New Mexico.
Artist Donna R. Charging: “All Kinds of Weather” which is a jazz album composed of songs played by Red Garland, including “Tis Autumn” and “Stormy Weather.”

Do you have a favorite, generative prompt for artists or writers you’d like to share?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: From Carol Test’s blog, WritingCycle, about the unique intimacy of literature versus film: Adapt a scene from your manuscript into a screenplay using only actions and dialogue.  Write 2-3 pages on your character’s inner thoughts.  Merge both versions into a single scene. This exercise tackles the balance between ‘show, don’t tell’ and inner complexity. It also prompts you to consider why your story should be a novel, not a screenplay. Which approach better suits your creative vision?
Artist Donna R. Charging: No.

Read any good books lately?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: I recently started reading the anthologies Octavia’s Brood and Otherwise Worlds, both of which delve deep into the intricate relationships between social justice, visionary fiction, and critical academic thought. Octavia’s Brood is especially fascinating for its fusion of activism and storytelling, inviting readers to imagine more equitable futures. Otherwise Worlds takes on the challenging task of exploring the interconnections between settler colonialism, Native genocide, and anti-Blackness. Both books have been eye-opening for me, providing new angles to think about the intersections of various forms of oppression and the ongoing struggles for justice.
Artist Donna R. Charging: Leaves of Mourning: Hölderlin’s Late Work, by Anselm Haverkamp.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: I was deeply moved by Southern Cheyenne artist and veteran Henry Pratt’s Warrior’s Circle of Honor sculpture at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC; the piece commands respect and offers a beautiful, intricate look into Indigenous valor.
Artist Donna R. Charging: No.

Anything else?
Poet Alica Mteuzi: This experience has reaffirmed my belief in the transformative power of collaborative art to challenge societal norms and ignite meaningful conversation.
Artist Donna R. Charging: I hope that Broadsided is able to find a way to show the GIF I created for this project.
Editors:  We were! Below is the animated GIF Donna created, in addition to the still image incorporated into the broadside—we’re very excited to be able to share it with you here.


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