The Sonoran People's Tapestry Project

The Sonoran People's Tapestry Project is a multi-cultural collaborative art project that seeks to express both the cultures and environments of the Sonoran Desert Bioregion.

The vision for this project arose during the planning stages of the 1995 conference "A Celebration of Desert Cultures", held by the International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA) in Caborca, Mexico. Its purpose was to promote a greater understanding of both the cultural and biological diversity of the Sonoran Desert Bioregion, an area which extends from southern Arizona to the northern gulf of the Sea of Cortez, including US, Mexican and Native American nationalities.

The question was: how can we employ the arts to encourage crosscultural awareness and understanding among the diverse ethnic groups that live in the western Sonoran Desert. The answer was: the weaving technique of Ann Keuper.

By using gut to incorporate objects not traditionally thought of as weavable, (rocks, shells, feathers) Ann is able to respond to the challenge of combining a limitless diversity of materials. As an artistic metaphor, her weaving expresses the notions of community, cooperation, strength, innovation, and diversity.

As a collaborative venture, conference members were asked to contribute an object that represented their home or way of life in the desert for Ann to weave together into a tapestry. The intentions were both to explore a variety of perspectives on what it means to be a desert dweller, and also to foster a sense of individual participation in the creation of a greater whole. The resulting piece would be symbolic of the (ISDAS's) effort both to define and preserve the cultural and natural integrity of the region. That this idea was enthusiastically embraced by all three cultural groups in attendance reinforced the notion that a shared desire for expression and appreciation of different values and belief systems does exist.

The vast array of materials and accompanying stories that were received inspired another aspect of the collaboration: the drawings of Matilda Essig. While the tapestry integrates many pieces into a whole, the drawings focus on the individual character and history of each contribution. Larger than life and with extensive detail, these images are intended to encourage the viewer to explore the beauty and diversity on an intimate scale.

To continue to weave its dialogue the Tapestry is on a journey to the communities that were the source of its ingredients - including its birthplace Caborca. During the next few years the exhibit will travel in the US, Mexico, and Native American sites in the borderlands region. We hope you can find a part of yourself and your community in this complex and intricate fabric.

Matilda Essig
Ann Keuper