Inside the Peabody Museum: February 2012

Love Blooms Among the Lakota

lakota courtship in ledger book

Detail from Half Moon ledger book. MS Am 2337, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Gift of Harriet J. Bradbury, 1930.

Most of the colorful 19th-century drawings by Plains warriors in Wiyohpiyata: Lakota Images of the Contested West are action-packed images of bravery or great deeds; riders on horseback take new horses or attack enemies. But one drawing depicts a more quiet encounter: a man and woman embrace in a courtship ritual.

Lakota men sometimes recorded their amorous conquests in drawings. When a young man wanted to court a woman, he tried to talk to her when she went to fetch water in the evening. If she were receptive, he would envelop her in a double-sized wool courting blanket.

This scene depicts such an encounter; the woman has set down her pail (or coffee pot) to accept his overtures. The artist shows the woman’s receptivity by making visible their exchange of words in dashed lines. Although two couples seem to be drawn, they probably represent two moments in the relationship between the artist and his sweetheart.

Wiyohpiyata: Lakota Images of the Contested West remains on view through 2012.

Dr. Loco Featured in Two Musical Programs for Adults and Families

Dr. Loco

Photo by Eugenio Rodriguez.

Dr. Loco knows how to rock the room. As founder of several Latino rock bands, including Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeno Band, he's been entertaining crowds on the west coast since 1984. 

Dr. Loco is the alter ego of Jose Cuellar, Ph.D., Professor of Latina/Latino Studies (formerly La Raza Studies) in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. Cuellar will combine his experience as a Mexican-American anthropologist, musician, and educator to bring the music of his native U.S.-Mexico borderlands to Harvard's Tsai Auditorium at 1730 Cambridge St. (in Cambridge) on Thursday March 29 at 6 P.M.

"I'll play indigenous flutes, American flute, sax, clarinet, and accordion," says Cuellar, adding, "and maybe keyboard and guitar and mandolin."

Cuellar has a particular talent for sharing his love of Mexican-American borderland music and culture.

"It will be a multimedia presentation. You'll get a musical tour all along the U.S.-Mexico border area," he said. "People, musical genres, and styles all come to this borderland; the music gets transformed and blended, incorporating influences from indigenous groups, European and African roots, in a way that is unique to this area. It's multi-ethnic in every sense of the word."

The music features many songs of the diaspora. "Subjects like longing, home, and returning home—songs that weren't written on the border, but came to the border" are popular, according to Cuellar. Other themes include violence, as documented in corridos (narrative ballads), and working-class issues such as strikes, workers' rights, and relationships with governments and unions.

Expect some humor and audience participation as well. "I want to create an ambiance like we're in a living room where people can play and talk."

On March 17, families will have their own opportunity to play and talk with Cuellar as part of the Third Saturdays Family Program "Fabulous Flutes, Marvelous Music." Museum staff will work with families to make flutes, and Cuellar will teach the technique for creating good tone. "Even experts concentrate on developing tone and technique," notes Cuellar. The jam session starts at noon; will you be there?

New Family Program: Decoding the Mysteries of the Mexican Flag

photo by chris jordan
Photo courtesy Svenska Biolosa Atkiebolaget. Some rights reserved.

The story of Mexico City's founding almost 700 years ago took the Mexica Aztec people on a long and arduous journey. "They were told by their god to find a particular mystical sign marking the spot where they should build their powerful city," says Peabody Museum Education Manager Sheila Sibley. "When they got there, the site was a swamp. Can you imagine their reaction?"

But the special sign, depicted on the modern Mexican flag, inspired the people to build the great city of Tenochtitlan, whose temple ruins remain partially buried beneath Mexico City.

The Mexican flag is the focus of the family program on Saturday, February 18 and during School Vacation Week Tuesday February 21 through Saturday February 25, from noon to 4 PM each day (Mexican Flag Day officially is Friday, February 24.)

"The image in the center of the Mexican flag looks like a simple picture of an eagle perched on cactus on top of a rock, but there are secret hidden meanings inside," says Sibley. "There's a word drawn in Aztec glyphs—it's like an ancient code—and there are multiple meanings to the special sign itself, which appears on Mexican currency as well." The Aztec glyph translates as "place where cactus grows from the rock." It includes the name of both Tenochtitlan, the ancient Mexica Aztec city, and the name of the city's revered founder, Tenoch.

"There are many stories and meanings behind the symbols on the modern Mexican flag," says Sibley. "The eagle holds a snake in its mouth, but is the snake really a snake? Or is it the sacred firewater, a symbol of great destructive power seen in ancient Mexica Aztec images? There are different interpretations at different times in history."

Families are invited to decode the ancient glyphs and discover the the mysteries behind the flag's history with stories and take-home crafts.

Remembering Irma Bailey

Irma Bailey, a long-time friend and supporter of the Peabody Museum, died in Albuquerque on January 9, 2012 from the effects of a sudden stroke.

Irma, shown here with silversmith Cippy Crazy Horse, was 95 years old. Irma and her late husband Wayne began working with Indian artists in 1949, and promoted their work by staging shows at major museums across the country. Irma conducted an annual show and sale of Indian arts at the Peabody for more than thirty years, often bringing Native artists with her. Back when the Peabody operated a gift shop, customers would line up on the sidewalk outside waiting for the doors to open on the first day of her shows. She donated a number of Navajo and pueblo objects to the Peabody collections, and recently facilitated the donation of a large group of southwestern and Northwest coast fetishes and carvings to the museum. Irma had many friends at Harvard and in the Boston area, and will be remembered for her remarkable warmth, vitality and generosity of spirit. --Castle McLaughlin

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Did you miss lectures in the Trash Talk: Anthropology of Waste series? You can listen to them here or download them to your mobile device through iTunes U. Look for Harvard's Peabody Museum lectures. More will be posted throughout the year.

Feb 9

6:00 pm


Trash Talk Lecture

"Terrible and Charismatic Waste: A Close Reading of Ocean Plastics"

Feb 18

Noon-4 pm

Drop-in Family Event

Mexican Flag Day Discovery Room

Feb  21-25

Noon-4 pm

Drop-in Family Event

Mexican Flag Day Discovery Room

Feb 23

6:00 pm

Gordon R. Willey Lecture

"Maya and the Idea of Empire: A View from the Field"


Feb 29

6:00 pm

Trash Talk Lecture

"Waste Ecologies"