Like his paper bags, Peter’s video work poignantly conveys his quest for reaching a broad public while conveying his belief in cultural continuity. It also has provided Jemison with opportunities to work closely with his two sons, passing on his traditional and cultural knowledge to future generations. This concern for inter-generational knowledge transfer is captured in a recent video work, Reclamation, where Jemison focused on a father’s quest to lose more than 100 pounds to ensure that he would be around long enough to import his knowledge to his young son. Ensconced in cultural metaphors and translated into Seneca language, Jemison poignantly embraces sensitive contemporary issues pertaining to diabetes, obesity, and diminishing life expectancy facing many present day Native Americans by poetically documenting one man’s personal journey and aspiration for longevity.
Jemison also addresses other issues and personal concerns revolving around historical representations, inaccuracies and wrongful depictions of post-contact Native American societies. In 2009, he collaborated with his son Brenden for the short film The Mahheakantuk in Focus, interpreted Henry Hudson’s journey up the Hudson River and the meaning behind the 1613 Treaty between the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee. The Two Row depicts the agreement that these sovereign nations would travel a journey of mutual respect and mutual coexistence without interference from the other. The film is a clear indication of Jemison’s personal interest in reenactment, interpretation and authenticity, standing as a poignant reminder for all generations of the importance of revisiting and reinterpreting these evergreen agreements that provide us with a deeper understanding of where we have come from, where we are now, and where we are going in the future.
Collaboration is a natural for Jemison, whose latest film, The Iroquois Creation Story (2015) is the result of three artistically and culturally diverse groups coming together under Jemison’s creative vision. (see below)
(Thanks in part to text by Barry Ace from Manifestations: New Native Art and Criticism.)
Iroquois Creation Story
As producer, Peter guided every stage and brought together two unlikely dance groups—traditional Iroquois Social Dancers and Garth Fagan Dance—plus the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Department of Film and Animation under the director of Professor Cathleen Ashworth. Jemison created the character concept art and style, recruited and guided the Iroquois voice actors, singers and dancers, and designed the dancers’ masks. A combination of live-action and animation, this 17-minute film is based on the ancient and complex Iroquois Creation Story. Since its debut in October 2015, it has garnered awards including Red Nation Film Festival, Los Angeles (Best Animation and Best Short Film) and Indianer Inuit Film Festival in Stuttgart, Germany (Best Animation). It has been shown at film festivals around the world, including New Zealand, Canada, and Europe, and can be viewed in the Orientation Theater at Ganondagan’s Seneca Art & Culture Center. The film has also been screened in nearly 20 festivals, winning six awards for Best Animation and one for Best Music.
The two videos, that can be viewed below (hover over the image to toggle between the two videos) provide background on the making of the film, and the animation team. The final film can be viewed at the Ganondagan's Seneca Art & Culture Center in Victor, NY, and is available for purchase at the Ganondagan gift shop.
The Iroquois creation story ...
Nation to Nation - Honoring our Treaty
Nation to Nation sends a clear message about our sovereignty as individual Nations. The seminal Federal 1794 Canandaigua Treaty between the United States and the Six Nations recognized the sovereignty of each to govern and set laws as distinct nations. Article 6 of the United States Constitution says that all treaties are the supreme law of the land. We ask that they continue to be honored.
The Two Row
Jemison and his son Brenden created this short film explaining the 1613 treaty between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch. The film moves between a re-creation of the exchange and a discussion of the present day meaning of the treaty terms commemorated in a wampum belt known as “Guswenta” or “Two Row” in English. The belt serves as a mnemonic device to assist the Haudenosaunee to remember the agreement’s original intent. The pattern’s two parallel lines signify the coexistence of two nations: separate boats, separate ways of life, an agreement not to interfere in each other’s affairs. The film makes the important point that a treaty is a living document and its terms need to be reinforced and reinterpreted by each generation.
To view more of Peter's works, click the link to visit his Vimeo page: