We Wait In The Darkness: A contemporary art and historical exhibit by Rosy Simas with contributions from Jim Simas and Laura Waterman Wittstock.
Choreographer and dancer, Rosy Simas, Seneca, conceptualized this exhibit to heal her grandmother’s (who has passed on) memories by sharing a family story of the Seneca people. Her voice and family materials reflect a history of loss and renewal known to many tribes today.
The exhibit is both a historical piece (an antique map collection of Seneca territory, Simas’ grandmother’s belongings, artifacts), and her contemporary response to that history (the plans for a dress made out of relocation maps, a film about the flooding of our homeland, and improvisation dances and sound which are my expression of all of these things.
“These few pictures of my grandmother’s family and the items passed down were dear to me as I researched the stories about her and her distant relatives who our family we never knew. Her third great grandfather was Cornplanter, an 18th Century Seneca War Chief. My grandmother was born in 1901 on the Cornplanter tract. It is this homeland that was flooded by creation of the Kinzua Dam (in 1963). The creation of this dam broke the 1794 treaty between George Washington and the Six Nations signed by Cornplanter. (This loss reshaped our family for generations).”
“The Seneca (a tribe of the Six Nations) people are matrilineal. We get our identity, our clan, and our inheritance from our mother, her mother, and her mother’s mother. The knowing of these ties (internally and intellectually) is an essential part of belonging for all Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) people.” – Rosy Simas
“Though I am Seneca from the Cattaraugus reservation in New York, I grew up in the urban Native community of Minneapolis, which is primarily Dakota/Lakota and Ojibwe. My mother, Native American journalist Laura Waterman Wittstock, moved our family to Minnesota work in Native education and cover the Native political activities happening in the Twin Cities in the 70s.”
“I began collecting antique maps one year ago. I wanted to show, through visuals, the diminishing lands of my people over the last 400 years. I believe these images are much more powerful than numbers printed on a page showing loss of acreage. I am also struck by how much the Seneca people have been affected by the shift from the traditional philosophy of territory to the forced colonial view of private property. The shift feels like a plague that has descended on us. To this day, land is the one thing that my people fight about with each other.” – Rosy Simas
“I was thrilled to see Rosy Simas’s astounding creative output resulting from her investigation into the land grab of her own Seneca tribal homeland. Not only did she choreograph, produce, costume, perform and create the floor-to-ceiling set and visuals for her dance performance, but she produced a remarkable art gallery exhibit. The harsh facts and evocative images offered me complementary avenues to travel with her—helping me to assimilate the injustices done to individual tribal members and Simas’s community over the generations. I appreciated the intellectual and the kinesthetic aspects—all a tribute to Simas’s astounding artistry.” – Judith Brin Ingber