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The Empowering Artists at Manifest Differently

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Manifest Differently, the show at Minnesota Street Project will be having a closing ceremony on Saturday March 16th. Jointly curated by Kim Shuck and Megan Wilson, Manifest Differently takes on the harsh truth that we are currently living in a colonized reality. It asks how we can collectively heal. If you have not had a chance to see these powerful artists and their work I encourage you to go before it closes. I had the opportunity to speak with a few of the artists and their insights into their process informed me why this show makes such a powerful statement.

To begin with though, I would like to talk about Manifest Destiny. Once in fourth grade history class I saw the lithograph American Progress by John Gast. It shows a beautiful angel floating over a rolling green landscape. Dressed in flowing white robes, the blond angel carries wire and telephone poles. Below her, American settlers ride on horses. Farmers plow their fields. Trains and stagecoaches surge forward across the image. They are bathed in golden sunlight. 

On the right side of the image, the scene darkens. A herd of buffalo run from the angel. A group of indigenous people on horses look back as they flee. This is an iconic illustration of the idea of Manifest Destiny, the 19th century phrase that proclaimed that settlers were destined to expand westward across North America. Not only does this image weaponize religion in support of genocide, the actions that came with it have left too many scars and shattered pieces.

By John Gast – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress

Co-curator Kim Shuck thought a lot about the troubling legacy that histories like this leave on a public psyche. She also asks the question of the marks these ideas have on different communities. “I used to think that people knew that Indigenous women were killed or vanished in higher numbers than the general population and just weren’t doing anything about it. When I found out that most people didn’t know, it made me wonder what I didn’t know about other communities.” Says Shuck.

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“I wanted to just ask creatives in different media to either express what effect the doctrine of discovery has had on their culture or how they would like to see their communities healed. I think in order to see good change we need to communicate better without a colonial lens in the way. I believe that social justice is possible, but that we need to know each other better. I saw Manifest Differently as part of that effort.” She continues.

Mixed-media portraits by Barbara Mumby show Indigenous women sitting unapologetically and in brilliant colors. The subjects’ eyes are clear and their gaze is direct. Their eyes follow you even as you lean in closer to inspect the fold of their shirts and the delicate spray of freckles across their nose. The colors invite the viewer to get close even as the gaze of the subjects is so direct it feels like an intrusion.

Las Mariposas by Barbara Mumby is on display at Manifesting Differently. Image provided by Manifesting Differently.

Mumby, is a practicing artist of 30 years and a UC Berkeley alum. She says “I feel a responsibility to use my art to shift narratives and collaboratively convey the stories of marginalized people who speak truth to power. To Manifest Differently requires all of us to listen, learn, and grapple with uncomfortable truths in order to grow and evolve. I work to create a safe space for self-identifying women to visually express their power and beauty through an artistic approach historically reserved for those in power: lifting up their personal stories to fill a space usually reserved for the elite.”

The works draw from the artist’s background and family history. “I am a mixed-race Indigenous person descending from the Powhatan Confederacy (Patawomeck, Pamunkey, and Mattaponi). We are part of the Native American diaspora/settler colonialism that pushed Indigenous Peoples from the East to the West, resulting in my migrant farm-working maternal ancestors landing in California’s Central Valley during the Great Depression. I was born and raised in one of the most impoverished agricultural areas in the state, the youngest of five, raised by a single mother. I am a survivor of domestic violence and abuse. I am a wife, mother, auntie, and daughter.” Mumby tells me.

Victoria Canby enjoys using mediums like brown paper to add to the texture of her work. This piece in on display at Manifesting Differently through March, 16th. Image provided by Manifesting Differently.

Victoria Canby‘s mural on brown paper tells the story of thousands of careful marks to create a work that reaches back into the artist’s family history. Symbols, plants and relics buried deep in the ground blend into the landscape. “The images I create are loaded with imagery from my life. Everything is tied directly to stories, people, healing properties, and Nature.” Canby states. She likes to use any medium that calls to her as well as ones that are easily accessible.

A powerful activist, Canby has the ability to bring communities together. She sees the same quality in the show. “It is a project that is going to spark dialogue, questions and inevitable education. It will have a legacy in the Bay Area for bringing together incredible creative souls in the unity of shifting the narrative and collectively standing on a strong foundation of desire for revolution.” She says. Opportunities to seek that education are built into Manifest Differently which will have events all year.

Amy Berk teaches art and activism to youths from all backgrounds in San Francisco. She is very aware of how our histories inform our futures. She guides teens into becoming good stewards to the land. They learn to speak to what’s right even in the face of adversity. Her pieces are a wonder of cloth and delicate stitching.

Amy Berk’s work is a carefully told history in tiny stitches. This piece is on display at Manifesting Differently until March 16th.

When asked how these experiences influence her art, Berk responds, “I don’t see how one’s life experience can’t affect ones artwork. My childhood on Long Island, my education, my mentors, my successes, my failures, my friends, my family, my work as an educator, my children, my travels, the books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, and it goes on and on. Our work reflects who we are in various guises. This piece attempts to find comfort and connection through soiled linens and shared histories.”

Vaimoana Niumeitolu is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, writer, performer and theater director. Her black and white mural is a meditative study of an elderly couple. One part of the couple kisses the cheek of the other, who has their eyes closed. The hair of the figures exists in a state of layers. Layers that curl into and away from one another. Layers that snake together to create patterns. They encompass the couple in a net of security and safety.

Her artist statement reads: “I consider all my art making ‘my ngatu.’ Ngatu is a traditional Tongan art form made by the whole community. We are born wrapped into ngatu and we are buried wrapped into it. In Tonga today, you can hear the pounding of the mulberry bark and the singing of women and children making ngatu. My art is always made by placing layer upon layer upon layer. Rather [than] digging away layers like an archaeologist, I dig into my findings by placing them upon each other like a builder. Building and creating our life journeys, celebrating our existence.”

This mural by will be on display at Minnesota Street Projects until March 16th. Photo by Vaimoana Niumeitolu.

Manifest Differently and its message are very close to home for Niumeitolu.”I am so grateful to be a part of this show. It was very important for me to be in this show at this particular time of various genocides around the world. I just got married in Palestine last September to a Palestinian man, my best friend. To love in a time of genocide is revolutionary. I uplift all the Palestinian ancestors and all the Palestinian love for liberation.”

On Saturday March 16th Manifesting Differently will have a full day of programming. Beginning at 1:00pm there will be a talk by Dr. David A.M. Goldberg about Radical Solidarity in the Age of Generative AI. At 3:00pm youths from Amy Berk’s program Artivate will share poetry and their thoughts on Manifesting differently. The closing reception will start at 4:30pm.

To find out more:



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Vita Hewitt

Vita Hewitt

Vita is a half Chinese-Malaysian, photograph taking, plant foraging, vegetable garden growing, astronaut impersonating, conceptual art creating Bay Area human. She loves exploring the intricacies of the Bay Area Art Scene.