A Living Language
Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art
A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art features over 50 works of art in a variety of media by more than 30 Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and Cherokee Nation artists. The exhibition highlights the use of the written Cherokee language, a syllabary developed by Cherokee innovator Sequoyah (circa 1776–1843). Cherokee syllabary is frequently found in the work of Cherokee artists as a compositional element or the subject matter of the work itself.
The Cherokee Syllabary is a system of writing developed by Sequoyah in the early 1800s prior to the Removal period. Through Sequoyah’s innovative work, Cherokee people embraced the writing system as an expedient form of communication and documentation. During the Removal period, the syllabary was used as a tactic to combat land dispossession. Cherokee people continue to use the syllabary as a form of cultural expression and pride, which is showcased in the contemporary artwork of the Cherokee Citizens in this exhibition.
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians artists include Joshua Adams, Jody Lipscomb Bradley, Nathan Bush, Kane Crowe, John Henry Gloyne, Shan Goshorn, Luzene Hill, Christy Long, Louise Bigmeat Maney, Christopher McCoy, Tara McCoy, Joel Queen, Sean Ross, Jakeli Swimmer, Rhiannon Skye Tafoya, Mary Thompson, Stan Tooni Jr., Alica Wildcatt, and Fred Wilnoty.
Cherokee Nation artists include Roy Boney Jr., Jeff Edwards, Joseph Erb, Raychel Foster, Kenny Glass, Camilla McGinty, Jessica Mehta, America Meredith, Jane Osti, Lisa Rutherford, Janet L. Smith, Jennifer Thiessen, and Jennie Wilson.
This exhibition is organized by the Asheville Art Museum and Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and curated by Hilary Schroeder, assistant curator at the Asheville Art Museum, with assistance from curatorial consultant Joshua Adams (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians). Special thanks to S. Dakota Brown, education director at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and Alexis Meldrum, curatorial assistant at the Asheville Art Museum, for their support in the planning of this exhibition. This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership, and sponsored in part by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and Kevin Click & April Liou in memory of Myron E. Click.
The exhibition was first on view at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC from June 12, 2021 to October 31, 2021.
Selected works from the exhibition
Groups of students or adults are invited to schedule a tour of the Museum’s Collection or special exhibitions. Our inquiry-based group visits, led by volunteer docents or Museum staff, challenge visitors to hone their observation skills.