Artist and activist Cannupa Hanska Luger creates art as a way of supporting indigenous causes and raising awareness of global issues.
The North Dakota native, who was born on the Standing Rock Reservation, creates unique, ceramic-centric, multidisciplinary artwork that communicates stories of complex indigenous identities coming up against 21st century challenges, including human alienation from and destruction of the land to which all indigenous people belong.
The indigenous artist – who is of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota, Austrian, and Norwegian descent – tells stories using fiber, steel, cut-paper, video, sound, performance, monumental sculpture, land art installation, and social collaboration.
Cannupa Hanska Luger’s most notable works include The Mirror Shield Project, a social engagement work which invited the public to create mirrored shields for water protectors at Standing Rock.
The shields set out to connect people to the land around them and to consider the consequences of how they treat it.
The Mirror Shield Project was a how to video featuring Cannupa Hanska Luger explaining how to create the mirror shields, which would serve as a protection for protesters. Thousands of people made the shields and shipped them to the camp at Standing Rock.
The act of creating the shields allowed people to show their empathy for an environmental cause and to do something.
In an interview with The Know, Cannupa Hanska Luger said: “The statement kept coming up: ‘I’m one person. What can I do?’.
“Well, that video was about how one person could make six shields. And those six shields could stand in front of 20 people in prayer on the front lines. And those 20 people stood in front of the whole camp, which was several thousand people. And those people were in front of eight million people downstream.”
Cannupa Hanska Luger’s recent works include a giant snake sculpture that stretches 30-feet made of discarded oil barrels and shredded abandoned truck tires. He has ironically titled the work, This Is Not a Snake.
The artist, who is now based in Santa Fe where he has a studio, says the giant, curving snake serves as a lesson as do all of his works. Cannupa Hanska Luger said: “If people chose waterways over oil ways, that would set a precedent in the United States. And if it sets a precedent in the United States, it sets a precedent all over the world.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea