Natasha Smoke Santiago: Water Pollution, the Problem and the Protectors

ceramic vessel in outdoor setting

Artist's statement

Water Pollution, the Problem and the Protectors is a large, unglazed ceramic vessel that was created using traditional Mohawk hand building techniques. The four points around the top (castellations) represent the four directions of the Earth. The four facial effigies on the points are symbolic of the spirit beings, which in Mohawk language are called the Kaieri ni:ion kwe thake, or guardians of the four directions.

In the stylized designs along the top of the rim, water encircles the entire vessel representing the waters of the world. A turtle, a whale, a small fish, and a plastic bag with the words “thanks” all swim in the waters. A bird sits on top of the vessel with thin, clear, plastic shreds wrapped around its neck. Markings made from metal tool stamps, Legos, and toy tires and guns illustrate ocean detritus at the bottom of the vessel.

Pollutants float throughout the heart of the ocean, made up of plastics and garbage—threatening to contaminate not only our waters and water animals, but also the survival of all beings. As caretakers of the Earth, humans must stop the continued pollution of our mother the Earth and all of her waters. If we continue to destroy, nothing will be left for future generations. Our job as humans is to leave the Earth better than we found it, to preserve our beautiful mother for the next seven generations. -NSS

Natasha Smoke Santiago
Water Pollution, the Problem and the Protectors, 2020
Unglazed hand-built ceramic vessel, 14 1/2 x 11 in.
SLU 2020.41