El Día de los Muertos is usually a time to look back and give thanks to our ancestors whose existence made it possible for us to be alive today. With Future Ancestors: A Ceremony of Memory we look at the present and give thanks and celebrate the individuals whose life work is contributing to a world we will leave behind for future generations while investigating what was handed down by their ancestors and continues to shape who they are today.

Through conversations with five people we reflect on lessons and objects held sacred that haven been passed down to them. We will mediate on how these inheritances shape and inspire these individuals to look at the world around them and concern themselves with the task of building a better world. These future ancestors are building a better world not just for themselves, in their lifetime, but to for the generations to come. We center our approach to this exhibit around Oren Lyons’, Chief of the Onondaga Nation words:

“We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. . . . What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?”

By placing these five people as the center point between the seven generations that have come before us and the seven generations that are yet to come, about 140 years in the future, we contemplate what is it about our actions, in the present, that will contribute to building a just and sustainable world. To further elevate the lives of these individuals we immortalize their likeness by creating portraits of them. Portraiture being a classic format that has traditionally been used to memorialize the rich and powerful. In this form we counter the hegemonic ways art has been historically been used to decide who and what is important through imagery and the construction of master narratives. Instead we offer an alternative worldview that places the importance of every day people as key agents of social change and the architects of a better world for those yet to be born.