The Trickster: A Symbol Shared by Many Cultures

Nora Naranjo-Morse, "Culture Speak"

Nora Naranjo-Morse, "Culture Speak," 1999, Lithograph, 38.1 x 28.3 cm, Tamarind Institute

Fostering collaborations with artists working around the world, the Tamarind Institute has come to function as an informal arm of diplomacy. In 1999, Tamarind hosted a cultural exchange that brought together four San artists of the Naro language group from the Kalahari Desert in Africa and four artists from pueblos in New Mexico to share stories and make prints about the popular folkloric figure of the trickster.

Trickster: a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior.

Tricksters often appear as coyotes in Native American mythologies. In African religions, tricksters are synonymous with disorder and confusion, insatiable appetites, and brazen lust.

During the first three days of the two-week project, participants traveled to sites in northern New Mexico for public storytelling sessions. They spent the remaining 10 days at Tamarind, each making two lithographs in collaboration with the institute’s master printers.

Cg'ose Ntcoxo

Cg'ose Ntcoxo, "Locust with Bushman Potato (Qare)," 1999, Lithograph, 38.1 x 28.3 cm, Tamarind Institute

The lithographs represent a colorful and varied interpretation of the idea of the roguish trickster, albeit from cultures that are worlds apart. While not all of the images relate to specific stories, some refer to a transformational process by which the storytelling tradition communicates life lessons.

Coex'ae (Dada) Qgam, "Mothers and Babies Under Euphorbia Tree"

Coex'ae (Dada) Qgam, "Mothers and Babies Under Euphorbia Tree," 1999, Lithograph, 38.1 x 28.3, Tamarind Institute

Coex’ae (Dada) Qgam, who hails from Ghanzi in the Kalahari and created Mothers and Babies Under Euphorbia Tree, relates: “prints and paintings are depicting facets of my culture and my world. I like to depict the things that bring me joy, like the plants from the Kalahari that can fill an empty stomach when you are hungry or can satisfy your thirst when there is no water to be found.”

Diane Reyna, "Remembering"

Diane Reyna, "Remembering," 1999, Lithograph, 38.1 x 28.3 cm, Tamarind Institute

Diane Reyna similarly did not study art formally, but grew up around art at her parents’ trading post in the American Southwest. Like Dada, Reyna uses an artistic vocabulary based on a historic language of symbols that evoke the natural world and cultural traditions.

To listen to a first-hand account of the day by Marjorie Devon, director of the Tamarind Institute, click here.

Come see the 16 lithographs that were created during this special collaborative experience at NMWA on view through October 2, 2011.

2 thoughts on “The Trickster: A Symbol Shared by Many Cultures

  1. I so appreciate your doing this partnership/sharing stories between these diverse cultures of here and there.

    May you continue to offer these artistic dialogs.

    Alicia Marie Rencountre-Da Silva

  2. I so appreciate your doing this partnership/sharing stories between these diverse cultures of here and there.

    It has been awhile since 1999. What are these artists doing now? How about a revisiting between them and a new show seeing what is new? How about student lithographers meeting and making art around a shared theme for 2012?

    May you continue to offer these artistic dialogs.
    Art can change the world!

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