Return from Exile

Grantee: Southeastern Indian Artists Association
Location:  Tahlequah, Okla.
Award:  Sponsorship
Discipline:  Art + Community + Social Justice Project
Web Site:

The symbolism of the traveling exhibit, “Return to Exile”, strikes the visitor immediately as the works of artists from displaced tribes interpret the anguish and losses suffered by their ancestors in the 1930’s and repatriate their cultural arts within their ancient homelands.  The above image, courtesy of NACF fellow Shan Goshorn, is titled “Removal”, and is one of the pieces in this traveling exhibit.

This traveling art exhibit was conceived to encourage healing and reconciliation and intentionally organized around the work of Native artists currently enrolled in the displaced tribes of the Creek, the Cherokee, the Choctaw, the Chickasaw and the Seminole. The works highlight these contemporary artists’ fascinating interpretations of their ancestors’ experiences after being forcibly removed from their Southeastern homelands in the 1930’s. The exhibition creates a symbolic return of arts and cultures to the tribes’ ancestral homelands.

The exhibit’s inaugural opening was timed to honor the earth and the ceremonial rites of the autumnal equinox, an annual occurrence observed by many tribes. Its Athens, Georgia, location was chosen in recognition of the traditional tribal dividing line of the Oconee River. A celebration of Native American cultural heritage being returned to the Southeast, the exhibit is aptly titled, “Return from Exile”.

Scheduled to tour museums and galleries for two years, the exhibition features art from 34 contemporary Native artists who sought to reconnect with their original homelands by incorporating their artwork into the fabric of Southeastern Indian cultures. The show was curated by Anthony “Tony” Tiger (former Chair of the Arts Department at Bacone College), Jace Weaver (Franklin Professor of Native American Studies) and Bob Martin (Associate Professor of Visual Art at John Brown University).

Following its opening run at the Lyndon House in Athens, the exhibition will be presented at venues in 2017 across the country. These will include the Collier County Museum in Naples, Florida, the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Cherokee National Museum in Park Hill, Oklahoma.

In addition to the support it received from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, “Return to Exile” received additional support from the UGA Institute of Native American Studies, the Lyndon House Arts Center, the UGA President’s Venture Fund, the Cherokee Nation and the Muscogee Nation (Creek).

Visit Return to Exile online.

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