LOCATION: Terminal 3 | Level 3 | Pre-Security
Toni Morrison said, “Our country needs a new story.” I say, “Our country needs a true old story, many true old stories, from many points of view. All are welcome.”
–Elizabeth “Betty” Anne Parent 2019
Professor Emerita of American Indian Studies, San Francisco State University
The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions
In collaboration with the San Francisco Arts Commission, SFO Museum is proud to present an exhibition of photographs as part of a larger citywide American Indian Initiative that celebrates the culture and contributions of local indigenous peoples. Spanning three months, The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions features a multitude of public events including exhibitions, a temporary light-art project, community celebrations, concerts, a film festival, and a fashion show.
This exhibition features portraits of members of the American Indian community by photographer Jean Melesaine (b. 1985). They were taken in April 2019 in a temporary studio space installed around the “Pioneer Monument” in San Francisco, specifically the empty plinth where the Early Days sculptural grouping once stood. In October 2018, after unanimous votes by the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Arts Commission, Historic Preservation Committee, and Board of Appeals, the Early Days sculpture was removed due to its offensive and inaccurate depiction of an American Indian lying at the feet of a Mexican vaquero and a Franciscan missionary. The photo shoot, which included portraits taken on the empty plinth and studio headshots, aimed to recast the Native American community in a contemporary light and overturn representations rooted in historical oppression and racism.
Jean Melesaine is a Samoan American documentary photographer and artist. Her mother is from the village of Moamoa and her father is from the village of Salani Faleali’li in Upolu, Samoa. Born in San José, California, and raised in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, Melesaine has called Oakland home for the past eight years. For over ten years, she has worked with the community advocacy organization Silicon Valley De-Bug, which helped shape her career path. As a teenager, Melesaine learned photography and film from community members at De-Bug. Her life’s work is to create and share stories about the Samoan community living and surviving in urban America with dignity and fa’aloalo (respect).
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