The First Literature Project To Open At Guild Hall

Guild Hall (158 Main Street, East Hampton, NY) announced today the final phase of the First Literature Project, developed over a 2-year period by Guild Hall Community Artists-in-Residence Wunetu Wequai Tarrant and Christian Scheider. The First Literature Project will be presented in Guild Hall’s Marks Family Gallery South from May 18 through July 15, 2024, featuring the first VR media produced in the Shinnecock Language.

First Literature Project (FLP) proposes to support Native nations in their efforts to maintain and further their languages, narratives, and oral traditions, making them available to both their tribal communities and surrounding areas. By utilizing FLP’s new immersive storytelling platform in

Virtual Reality (VR), advanced 3D technology is repurposed to recreate an important tradition— sitting face-to-face with a storyteller.

“The significance of having a platform to share our history cannot be understated,” says Wunetu Wequai Tarrant. “A wealth of knowledge is left out when the only accounts of Indigenous cultures available are written by outside anthropologists and authors. The FLP's method will bring our stories into the 21st century, using our voices, our faces, and sharing our perspectives.”

The exhibition will utilize the newly released Apple Vision Pro headset to present the story, Padawe, originally written in English by Elizabeth Chee Chee Thunderbird Haile,
now newly translated and narrated in the Shinnecock language by Wunetu Wequai Tarrant, Chee Chee Haile's granddaughter. The exhibition will also feature video works by members of the Shinnecock language revitalization collective Ayim Kutoowonk, Kaysha Haile, Ahanu Valdez, and Cholena Smith-Boyd, and interviews with members of the Shinnecock Nation through a collaboration with The Padoquohan Medicine Lodge.
First Literature Project has been the recipient of several prestigious grants, which has enabled Tarrant & Scheider to fully realize their ideas as part of Guild Hall’s Community Artist-in-Residence program.

In 2022, the project received the Creatives Rebuild New York Artist Employment Grant (CRNY AEP). As 1 of 98 projects awarded, the CRNY AEP grant provided full employment to Tarrant and Scheider, and through additional project support, forged a partnership between Guild Hall and the Padoquohan Medicine Lodge. This partnership resulted in two years of filmed interviews with several members of the Shinnecock Nation including Denise Silva-Dennis, Rebecca Genia, Keith Phillips, Andrina Wekontash Smith, Christina Tarrant, Holly Haile Thompson, Margo Thunderbird, and Ruben Valdez. Their video interviews will be featured as part of the exhibition.

“This was a long process that had to move at the speed of trust. To begin, we were invited into homes, into gathering places, into backyards, and when we arrived all we did was turn the cameras on and listen,” says Christian Scheider. “In close to 100 hours of footage, we asked only a handful of questions. That is always the sign when you know you are where you need to be. There was so much that needed to be said - there still is. Our role, even more than creating this new format, is to listen, and to remember what we hear.”

The project received additional funding in 2023 from the Long Island Community Foundation to review the interviews with an eye toward inviting several interviewees to re-record their orations in the project’s new 3D video format for VR.

“We have this saying at Guild Hall – ‘Let Artists Lead The Way,’” says Anthony Madonna, Guild Hall’s Patti Kenner Director of Learning + New Works. “The CRNY AEP grant allowed Guild Hall to fully embrace this edict. The opportunity that the CRNY AEP grant not only gifted Wunetu & Christian the headspace to fully immerse themselves in their creative process, but the immense support gave Guild Hall the ability to attract additional funding – allowing the First Literature Project to be fully produced from ideation to exhibition. The CRNY AEP grant is a prime example of longitudinal support for artists and community-based work – a practice shared by Guild Hall.”

In 2023, the project received funding from the Library of Congress’ Connecting Communities Digital Initiative (CCDI) award, which is part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path initiative. The award allowed Tarrant to form the language revitalization collective, Ayim Kutoowonk. Working alongside Tarrant, and guest lecturers, Christina Tarrant, Conor

McDonough Quinn, and Kaylene Big Knife, Ayim Kutoowonk members have created their own multi-media projects and learning tools in the Shinnecock language. The projects have been developed through the study of various primary source documents, including the “Eliot Indian Bible,” held in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress.
Published between 1660-1663 the “Eliot Indian Bible” was the first complete Bible printed in America, and is translated from English to the Niatick dialect of the North East Algonquin Tribes. The Bible holds significance for the Shinnecock language. Shinnecock ancestor, Caconoe D’Long Island was a primary contributor for The Book Of Genesis, and is currently the only document in Shinnecock within the collection of the Library of Congress.

As part of the CCDI award, the work of Ayim Kutoowonk will be submitted to the Library of Congress for consideration as part of the Library’s digital collection – making it the only primary source in the Shinnecock language that is by, for, and about Shinnecock people.

“Language holds meaning when it is truly understood,” says Ahanu Valdez, member of Ayim Kutoowonk. “By connecting the pieces gathered, We, Ayim Kutoowonk, are regenerating the Shinnecock language. These videos were crafted with the intention of teaching Shinnecock Tribal members our language. Each word spoken and every verse recited serves as a bridge linking the past to the present, ensuring that the understanding within our shared cultural identity is celebrated.”

In 2024, the project received $70,419.00 in grant funding from The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to present the work of First Literature Project as an exhibition at Guild Hall. The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation grant specifically supports the equipment purchase and technical development of the VR Work through a collaboration between Christian Scheider and Khora, a leading Scandinavian Virtual & Augmented Reality production studio, and their
co-founder, Peter Fisher.

The exhibition will be open from May 18 – July 15 in Guild Hall’s Marks Family Gallery South, with additional public programs featuring the project’s creative team & collaborations.

• Thursday, May 23, 6pm: Artist Talk with Peter Fisher, Chistian Scheider, & Wunetu Wequai Tarrant
• Thursday, May 30, 6pm: Artist Talk with Ayim Kutoowonk, Andrina Wekontash Smith, & Wunetu Wequai Tarrant.
• Monday, June 17, 6pm: Creative Lab with Ahanu Valdez
To learn more & register for the public programs, please visit guildhall.org

Admission is free, and timed entry is required to experience First Literature Project’s virtual- reality work. Patrons who wear glasses or corrective lenses are strongly encouraged to wear contact lenses. Limited space is available every half hour from 12-4 PM, Friday to Monday. Advance reservations are recommended to ensure time slots but are not required.
Pictured: Wunetu Wequai Tarrant. Photo by Christian Scheider.

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The First Literature Project To Open At Guild Hall

The First Literature Project To Open At Guild Hall

Guild Hall (158 Main Street, East Hampton, NY) announced today the final phase of the First Literature Project, developed over a 2-year period by Guild Hall Community Artists-in-Residence Wunetu Wequai Tarrant and Christian Scheider. The First Literature Project will be presented in Guild Hall’s Marks Family Gallery South from May 18 through July 15, 2024, featuring the first VR media produced in the Shinnecock Language.

First Literature Project (FLP) proposes to support Native nations in their efforts to maintain and further their languages, narratives, and oral traditions, making them available to both their tribal communities and surrounding areas. By utilizing FLP’s new immersive storytelling platform in

Virtual Reality (VR), advanced 3D technology is repurposed to recreate an important tradition— sitting face-to-face with a storyteller.

“The significance of having a platform to share our history cannot be understated,” says Wunetu Wequai Tarrant. “A wealth of knowledge is left out when the only accounts of Indigenous cultures available are written by outside anthropologists and authors. The FLP's method will bring our stories into the 21st century, using our voices, our faces, and sharing our perspectives.”

The exhibition will utilize the newly released Apple Vision Pro headset to present the story, Padawe, originally written in English by Elizabeth Chee Chee Thunderbird Haile,
now newly translated and narrated in the Shinnecock language by Wunetu Wequai Tarrant, Chee Chee Haile's granddaughter. The exhibition will also feature video works by members of the Shinnecock language revitalization collective Ayim Kutoowonk, Kaysha Haile, Ahanu Valdez, and Cholena Smith-Boyd, and interviews with members of the Shinnecock Nation through a collaboration with The Padoquohan Medicine Lodge.
First Literature Project has been the recipient of several prestigious grants, which has enabled Tarrant & Scheider to fully realize their ideas as part of Guild Hall’s Community Artist-in-Residence program.

In 2022, the project received the Creatives Rebuild New York Artist Employment Grant (CRNY AEP). As 1 of 98 projects awarded, the CRNY AEP grant provided full employment to Tarrant and Scheider, and through additional project support, forged a partnership between Guild Hall and the Padoquohan Medicine Lodge. This partnership resulted in two years of filmed interviews with several members of the Shinnecock Nation including Denise Silva-Dennis, Rebecca Genia, Keith Phillips, Andrina Wekontash Smith, Christina Tarrant, Holly Haile Thompson, Margo Thunderbird, and Ruben Valdez. Their video interviews will be featured as part of the exhibition.

“This was a long process that had to move at the speed of trust. To begin, we were invited into homes, into gathering places, into backyards, and when we arrived all we did was turn the cameras on and listen,” says Christian Scheider. “In close to 100 hours of footage, we asked only a handful of questions. That is always the sign when you know you are where you need to be. There was so much that needed to be said - there still is. Our role, even more than creating this new format, is to listen, and to remember what we hear.”

The project received additional funding in 2023 from the Long Island Community Foundation to review the interviews with an eye toward inviting several interviewees to re-record their orations in the project’s new 3D video format for VR.

“We have this saying at Guild Hall – ‘Let Artists Lead The Way,’” says Anthony Madonna, Guild Hall’s Patti Kenner Director of Learning + New Works. “The CRNY AEP grant allowed Guild Hall to fully embrace this edict. The opportunity that the CRNY AEP grant not only gifted Wunetu & Christian the headspace to fully immerse themselves in their creative process, but the immense support gave Guild Hall the ability to attract additional funding – allowing the First Literature Project to be fully produced from ideation to exhibition. The CRNY AEP grant is a prime example of longitudinal support for artists and community-based work – a practice shared by Guild Hall.”

In 2023, the project received funding from the Library of Congress’ Connecting Communities Digital Initiative (CCDI) award, which is part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path initiative. The award allowed Tarrant to form the language revitalization collective, Ayim Kutoowonk. Working alongside Tarrant, and guest lecturers, Christina Tarrant, Conor

McDonough Quinn, and Kaylene Big Knife, Ayim Kutoowonk members have created their own multi-media projects and learning tools in the Shinnecock language. The projects have been developed through the study of various primary source documents, including the “Eliot Indian Bible,” held in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress.
Published between 1660-1663 the “Eliot Indian Bible” was the first complete Bible printed in America, and is translated from English to the Niatick dialect of the North East Algonquin Tribes. The Bible holds significance for the Shinnecock language. Shinnecock ancestor, Caconoe D’Long Island was a primary contributor for The Book Of Genesis, and is currently the only document in Shinnecock within the collection of the Library of Congress.

As part of the CCDI award, the work of Ayim Kutoowonk will be submitted to the Library of Congress for consideration as part of the Library’s digital collection – making it the only primary source in the Shinnecock language that is by, for, and about Shinnecock people.

“Language holds meaning when it is truly understood,” says Ahanu Valdez, member of Ayim Kutoowonk. “By connecting the pieces gathered, We, Ayim Kutoowonk, are regenerating the Shinnecock language. These videos were crafted with the intention of teaching Shinnecock Tribal members our language. Each word spoken and every verse recited serves as a bridge linking the past to the present, ensuring that the understanding within our shared cultural identity is celebrated.”

In 2024, the project received $70,419.00 in grant funding from The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to present the work of First Literature Project as an exhibition at Guild Hall. The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation grant specifically supports the equipment purchase and technical development of the VR Work through a collaboration between Christian Scheider and Khora, a leading Scandinavian Virtual & Augmented Reality production studio, and their
co-founder, Peter Fisher.

The exhibition will be open from May 18 – July 15 in Guild Hall’s Marks Family Gallery South, with additional public programs featuring the project’s creative team & collaborations.

• Thursday, May 23, 6pm: Artist Talk with Peter Fisher, Chistian Scheider, & Wunetu Wequai Tarrant
• Thursday, May 30, 6pm: Artist Talk with Ayim Kutoowonk, Andrina Wekontash Smith, & Wunetu Wequai Tarrant.
• Monday, June 17, 6pm: Creative Lab with Ahanu Valdez
To learn more & register for the public programs, please visit guildhall.org

Admission is free, and timed entry is required to experience First Literature Project’s virtual- reality work. Patrons who wear glasses or corrective lenses are strongly encouraged to wear contact lenses. Limited space is available every half hour from 12-4 PM, Friday to Monday. Advance reservations are recommended to ensure time slots but are not required.
Pictured: Wunetu Wequai Tarrant. Photo by Christian Scheider.

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