The Box commissions new piece of Native American art for Mayflower 400 exhibition

The first commission for The Box’s major ‘Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy’ exhibition is its first-ever work by a Wampanoag artist.

Ramona Peters, who specialises in traditional ceramics, will create a new cooking pot based on historic Wampanoag designs.

Peters, also known as Nosapocket, is a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation. As a potter, she has helped revive traditional Wampanoag clay craft from the 1600s.

The Wampanoag, also known as the People of the First Light, are one of the many Nations of people who lived all over North America long before the Europeans arrived.

Today there are two Wampanoag Nations in Massachusetts – the Mashpee and Aquinnah. Together they have a population of just over 5,000 people.

Peters and Wampanaog cultural agency SmokeSygnals will work with The Box, Plymouth over the next year to realise the piece before bringing the cooking pot to Plymouth for 2020.

Nicola Moyle, Head of Heritage, Art and Film at The Box said: “This is a significant and symbolic commission for The Box and the city, as well as an opportunity for us to showcase traditional Wampanoag craftsmanship. Working with the Wampanoag, whose ancestors met the passengers of the Mayflower 400 years ago, helps us understand the past and the present and explore the legacy of the Mayflower story.”

Ramona Peters, artist said: “My work allows me the honour of reviving my ancestors’ art through time and the pot is a representation of a 1600s Wampanoag cooking pot like the ones that were used inside traditional family dwellings.”

In the ‘Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy’ exhibition, the cooking pot will be displayed alongside historic Wampanoag materials, which are coming on loan from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington. Once the exhibition is over the pot will become part of the city’s permanent collections. The funding for it has come from the Friends of the City Museum and Art Gallery (FCMAG).

Dr Stefan Aloszko, chair of FCMAG said: “We are really pleased to be able to support The Box’s first artistic collaboration with the Wampanoag people and can’t wait to see it on display in an exhibition that we feel is going to help change perceptions of the Mayflower story.”

The ‘Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy’ exhibition will be on display at The Box from April 2020 to late summer/early autumn 2021. It will explore early English attempts to colonise America, recognise conflict and coexistence with Native America, address the political and religious context for the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620, detail the lives of its passengers, and consider the cultural, demographic and personal legacies of the story.