Lessons in Rezilience
Community-building festival returns for year two
“There's all these awesome things happening in our communities,” Warren Montoya said. “And people within our communities are the ones making them happen. That's the work we're doing. That's what we're trying to showcase.” Montoya is talking about the upcoming Rezilience Indigenous Arts Experience, also informally known as RezArtX. Approaching its second year, Rezilience is a two-day experience that emphasizes and incorporates a number of vital channels of experience that all speak to that important but sometimes elusive concept of community. These channels include things like movement, design, expression, innovation, style and exchange. And that's just naming a few. “These cool things are happening in your community,” Montoya said, and the festival aims to illustrate that point to everyone in attendance, by bringing them all together at a singular event.
Rezilience as it exists today grew from Montoya's start-up called Rezonate Art. Montoya, a lifelong artist, wanted to find more venues to present his work and, as he described, “I saw a bunch of my peers doing amazing things, and I wanted to help create more opportunities for others to see it.” And so he started Rezonate, a project that developed and presented events that did just that. Rezilience was a natural outgrowth of that enterprise. Last year at the first ever Rezilience, hundreds came together to celebrate the multiplicity of things that inform Indigenous identity and experience. “The programming, the mood, it all felt really good. It was a really positive space,” Montoya said of that first year, and so, despite the exhausting amount of work involved in planning an event so expansive—a second Rezilience was set for Gathering of Nations weekend in 2017—that's Saturday, April 29, and Sunday, April 30.
The partnerships and the amount of programming have drastically increased from the festival’s inaugural year. This year, Rezilience welcomes 15 supporting institutions, including the likes of the Heard Museum from Arizona—a museum that showcases the stories of Native Americans through the beauty of their art. The Museum will be hosting a printmaking workshop at Rezilience. Other sponsors (many of whom will be presenting workshops, panels or other types of presentations at the event) include SITE Santa Fe, Tewa Women United and Grownup Navajo, a blog turned full-fledged community organization founded by Jaclyn Roessel that emphasizes “using principles of Navajo culture and teachings … to inspire community action based on our kinship values,” she explained.
Roessel is the communications director for Rezilience's organizing staff of about 10, and she is also a presenter at this year's event. For this year's Rezilience, she is collaborating with Onyota'a:ka artist Monique Aura Bedard from British Columbia on a three-dimensional mural puzzle. The puzzle is comprised of 16-by-16 inch cubes, each with different imagery and words on their distinct sides. Attendees are invited to manipulate the blocks to create any of six different mural possibilities. Bedard has created the imagery, and Roessel is overlaid the images with Navajo language, as well as Bedard's language of Onyota'a:ka. “The entire piece celebrates Mother Earth,” Roessel said of the piece, adding, “The piece is really celebrating the fact that in Diné culture we learn from the mountains and in Onyota'a:ka culture, they learn from the three sisters—corn, bean and squash. It's really Earth-based learning.” And, in addition to that, it is an opportunity to discover these two languages. To that point, Roessel explained, “We really want people who come to Rezilience to literally experience our languages by manipulating the puzzle.”
Roessel and Bedard's puzzle is one of literally dozens of opportunities for education and experience. Rezilience is hosting, along with presenting partner Wings of America, a 5k and 10k jog along the Bosque, for example, if that's a point of interest. If cardio's not your thing, NDNCraft.com is hosting a fashion show that same day. If you're more interested in web design than clothing design, consider attending one of several technology forums. There’s a whole evening of music, too, featuring the likes of Renata Yazzi, Shining Soul and Def-i. All these things are possible with admission to Rezilience. The event promises to be fun, certainly, but there are a lot of other things happening which amplify the experience and hopefully, ripple through our city long after Rezilience is over.
“What we're doing is taking the idea of community … through four areas [which are] art, education, wellness and technology … and turning it into something that can be presented,” Montoya said. The idea of community, and particularly that of resilience, resonates on many levels for him. “I'm from Santa Ana and Santa Clara Pueblos,” he explained. “Our people have survived a lot of things. Incredibly, we've been able to still hold on to pieces of our cultures and models of understanding that tell how we're connected to our community.” Rezilience aims to reinforce traditional ways of understanding community at the event, as well as ones that speak to the modern existence of many Indigenous people. The outcome is something with profound power, no matter who you are.
“I think that because this event is an experience built from values, it is capable of inclusion for people of all backgrounds. … I think that is what our entire society needs—more platforms that allow us to function from our various backgrounds and identities simultaneously so we can come together because we have shared values, though not necessarily shared experience. … That creates an opportunity for us to exchange through creative means,” Roessel explained. Hinging on that idea, Montoya added “To be totally frank, this is an event that a lot of communities need.” For now, we remain grateful Rezilience is happening here, in our community.
Rezilience will be held April 29 and 30 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (1701 Fourth Street SW). The event was made possible in part by the Continuous Pathways Foundation of Pojoaque Pueblo. Tickets range from $10-40 and are available online (at rezartx.com) and at the door. A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to this year's supporting institutions.