Akilah Martinez, NDN Taco, Augmented Reality
Akilah/Glittering World Girl is an artist and cultural bearer from the Navajo Nation. At an early age, she witnessed her Grandparents (unilingual Navajo language speakers) left to watch television programming that was only offered in the English language. It then became her lifelong goal to create media that represents Indigenous ways of life in conjunction with preserving Native cultures and languages. She seeks to create community-based media for her tribe, and other Indigenous communities, through modern mediums and circular Indigenous-based social entrepreneurship. Akilah is known for creating videos, radio ads, and features in songs in the Navajo language, Diné bizaad. She seeks to create community dialogue, evoking a sense of connectivity at the intersection of community, the arts and technology. Her previous augmented reality (AR) projects feature parallel themes of Indigenous futurism, integrating Indigenous superheroes or Indigenous foods and layering in pop culture elements.
Akilah obtained her BFA in Studio Art from the University of New Mexico with a focus in electronic art and emerging XR technology. She invented interactive oscillator shoes that were displayed at FATE Biennial 2013. Akilah then spent five years primarily living on the reservation, contributing to Navajo language preservation media work. A 2019 Immersive Technology Fellowship with XR company Crux enabled Akilah to travel between New York City and Los Angeles to learn from leading XR companies and artists on how to leverage XR to highlight culture and storytelling. In 2020, Akilah graduated at the top of a Cultivating Coders cohort with groundbreaking ideas of how to integrate modern Navajo representation at the intersection of code, art and technology. In early 2022, Akilah’s third augmented reality project was awarded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Art’s Fulcrum Fund with 516 ARTS in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
We are part of Creator, therefore we were given the ability to create. All things exist now. Through imagination and the ability to select from the infinite potential of what we want to experience, we’re able to externalize abundance and create new realities for our people.
—Akilah/Glittering World Girl (Diné/Navajo)
Akilah’s LIFT project, Natives In Tech, will be a series of AR environments, which are redefining contemporary visual art in museums, art galleries, and entertainment. The project aims to provide a platform for Indigenous representation in interactive technology for Indigenous social media users. The project’s theme revolves around connecting with a borderless ancestral community in a modern, fun, lighthearted way, providing an avenue to share collective experiences with a culturally rich digital interface. Natives In Tech will give the user an opportunity to Indigenize immediate environments at the intersection of contemporary visual art, pop culture, and ancient Indigenous iconography with affirmative and culturally appropriate messaging.