As an artist, Manuel focuses his efforts on protecting the cultural identity of Auk-Mierl Aw-Aw-Thum, also known as the River People. His efforts have been crucial in preserving his tribe’s traditional knowledge and contributing to current educational knowledge within Arizona. Through his work and research, Manuel has become renowned in southern Arizona for continuously educating people about the use of agave plants that are the primary medium for the traditional burden baskets as well as many other forms of cultural art. Over the past decade, he has spent countless hours conducting outreach to ensure that his tribal community, Arizona historical societies, and his family be acquainted with Manuel’s fifteen years of research and documentation on desert-plant weavings and desert lifeways.
For his 2017 NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship, Royce Manuel will teach his apprentice, Matthew Yatsayte (Navajo/Zuni), the cultural and historical significance, and making of fiber art items by harvesting desert plants that were more commonly used amongst Native tribes of the southwest in the past for survival purposes. Traditionally, agave plants, which are from the desert, had many purposes and were often used as common binding materials, for nourishment, and to create functional art. His lessons will include on-going discussions of regional plant growth, seasonal information, harvesting methods, preparation processes, and identifying a list of fiber arts where agave and desert plant materials can be used.
Manuel will integrate artifact and collections research in the mentorship by visiting city and tribal museums with his apprentice. Additionally, he plans to learn and explore with his apprentice about museum historic preservation practices, cultural educational efforts, Indigenous research methods, and also plans to conduct interviews of selected families who have traditional knowledge about desert plants.
My work is inspired by my paternal grandmother.
~ Royce Manuel
Mentor and Apprentice Joint Art Project:
Under Royce Manuel’s guidance, Matthew Yatsayte wove a knotless woven gourd bag, a six-inch hair brush, bow string, and woven sandals throughout the year. Yatsayte learned from Manuel how to publicly present about this endangered art form of Southwest fiber art and now shares what he has learned with his elders and youth groups in his home community of Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico.