Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America

Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America

Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America is an ambitious response to Mayflower 400 and the creative opportunities it offers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Part of Mayflower 400, this exhibition unites contemporary indigenous artists and educators in the USA with museums and historic collections in UK.

Told by Wampanoag voices throughout, Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America explores Wampanoag life in America today, cultural history and the impact of the colonial past, as well as creative aspirations for the future.

Wampum belts are stories of communities and culture. This exhibition centres on a wampum belt created by people of the Wampanoag Nation, alongside historic material from British museums. Together, they explore the history, art and culture of the Native Americans who met the passengers of the Mayflower and ensured their survival. Contemporary Wampanoag artists share their story through images, ideas and wampum - the sacred shells of Native America.

The people who participated in the making of the new wampum belt are sharing the story in the age-old oral tradition of the Wampanoag. The White Pine in the center tells our creation story - that we came from her roots more than 12,000 years ago to become the people of the dawn. This belt will preserve our stories for many generations of Wampanoag to come.

Paula Peters, SmokeSygnals and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Nation

A pair of hands holding a wampum belt

Wampum: Stories and Shells from Native America is a local, national and international project. Created on both sides of the Atlantic, this exhibition connects the US and the UK, Wampanoag artists and English audiences, the past and the present. It also looks to the future and to a new relationship across an ocean.

This exhibition can be seen at SeaCity Museum, Southampton from 15 August – 18 October, Guildhall Art Gallery, London from 8 January – 14 February 2021, culminating at The Box, Plymouth from 15 May – 19 July 2021.

Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America is presented by The Box, Plymouth in partnership with SmokeSygnals, Massachusetts, and supported by Arts Council England as part of the Mayflower 400 commemoration.

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From 29 September 2020