Issue 2:1 / Jacquelyn Tait Leebrick
NATIVE AMERICAN CEREMONIAL SITES
Gil and Jacquelyn Leebrick have spent much time traveling and researching Native American ceremonial sites in the Southeast region. We have photographed numerous sites, both historic and prehistoric (archaic to Mississippian period). The project was initially funded through an Artist Project Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council.
Many of the sites flourished during the Mississippian mound building culture which appeared approximately AD 750 in the middle Mississippi Valley and spread throughout the central and eastern United States bringing a more complex way of life to these regions. Some of these locations were inhabited by prior cultures several thousand years earlier.
We have been continually amazed with the richness and sophistication of these early native American cultures in the southeastern United States. Finely crafted artifacts show evidence of extensive trade routes and probable Mezo-American influence. Although these societies were pre-literate, their artifacts give us a sense of the importance of ceremony and the stability of their culture.
Jacquelyn melds a sense of place and ceremony by combining artifact and symbols as metaphors with the physical locations. Her hand-painting recreates and personalizes the energy experienced at these sites. Gils large format contact prints, 8 x 20, are created with an antique panoramic camera. They define the space as it is found today, complete with contemporary interpretations. Both photographers seek to make visual the energy and power still encountered today at these sites.
Called the Southern Ceremonial Complex, the Mississippian cultures were often based on maize agriculture, and developed in river valleys at permanent ceremonial centers built around one or more mound. These were well-developed societies, with a strong belief system and focus upon a leader believed to descend from the gods. As with the Aztecs and the Mayans, around 1200-1400 AD, the mound building cultures disappeared for unknown reasons.
This project has expanded to include the mound building cultures of the Hopewell and Adena cultures in Ohio and the midwest United States.
Through our differing visions, we hope to bring an awareness of the cultural value of these sites and the energy they possess.
Gil and Jacquelyn Leebrick