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Canupa Iŋyan: Falling Star Woman

Erin Genia

Canupa Iŋyan: Falling Star Woman

2020

Catlinite stone

1 x 1.2 cm

status:

Returned

Canupa Iŋyan: Falling Star Woman depicts the legend of a star gazing young woman who travels to space, marries a star person and gives birth to a star child

MIT Space Exploration Initiative

"Carved from the traditional Dakota material of canupa iŋyan/ pipestone, Canupa Iŋyan: Falling Star Woman depicts the legend of a star gazing young woman who travels to space, marries a star person and gives birth to a star child. Over time, she misses her family, friends, and her work as a plant medicine healer. She decides to leave her home in the stars and return to her people on earth. Using the thread of her woven dress as a rope, she climbs down from the stars. However, the thread is not long enough. She lets go and tumbles down to earth as a wakaŋwohpa/ falling star.


There are varying versions of this story within oral tradition, each possessing different elements and outcomes for Falling Star Woman. In this piece, I chose the elements that are most prominent in my recollection, in order to recreate her voyage into space, and her path falling back down to earth's gravity field.


The carving shows the moment she is transformed into a falling star and becomes Wicahnpi Hinhpayawin/ Falling Star Woman. Her face appears on one side of the cylinder and her hair flows into the shape of an eight-pointed star on the other end. On her body, I carved a Dakota floral pattern to show the strong pull she felt to resume her duties to her people as a plant medicine healer, and the relevance of the stars to planting seasons.


This piece is a extension of my ongoing project: "Canupa Iŋyan: carvings of my ancestors," in which I work with pipestone and study its history and cultural forms. This stone comes from the quarry located on Dakota homelands where people of many tribes historically came together to dig stone for their pipes. Today, due to colonization, the quarry is under the jurisdiction of the United States, and it is known as Pipestone National Monument, in Minnesota.


This project has led me to museum collections around the US, where I have viewed, studied, documented, and spent time with ancestral Dakota canupa iŋyan pieces. According to Dakota philosophy, the historical pieces residing in museums are considered to be ancestors themselves, possessing a life of their own. Likewise, this stone is a vibrant form of life with much cultural significance.


Canupa iŋyan is a sacred material to Dakota people for many reasons, and it is my goal to send this piece into orbit around the earth as a symbolic prayer for peace and for the strengthening of Indigenous peoples all over the globe, as well as the resurgence of Indigenous knowledge and ways in this time of global crisis. Canupa Iŋyan: Falling Star Woman was prepared for this task through protocols of working with this stone. When it returns back to earth after its time in the thermosphere, I will observe and document any changes in the work, and then honor its journey through ceremony.


The piece was made to fit into the Sojourner 2020 capsule, it measures 6.5 mm x 11.5 mm, and weighs only 0.86g. It is the smallest piece I have ever done, smaller than my fingernail, about the size of a pill. Sojourner 2020 is a unit built to hold art work investigations in a small space, it consists of three layers, the first that remains still in weightlessness, the second and third that rotate at the speed of the moon and Mars, respectively. Falling Star Woman is on the first layer and will experience zero gravity for the duration of her time on the ISS."


Source: http://eringeniaportfolio.blogspot.com/2020/03/canupa-iyan-falling-star-woman.html

Technical information

artist

Erin Genia

title

Canupa Iŋyan: Falling Star Woman

date

2020

this work is part of the following collection

Sojourner 2020

medium

Catlinite stone

dimensions

1 x 1.2 cm

genre

Sculpture

IAAA art style

Launch

launch date

7 Mar 2020

launch  vehicle

SpaceX CRS-20 (Dragon), Flacon 9

Orbit

host 

International Space Station

location

LEO, International Space Station (ISS)

launch location

SLC40 - Cape Canaveral, Florida

Return

return date

6 April 2020

return vehicle

SpaceX Dragon

status

Returned

launch vehicle COSPAR id

2020-016A

partners

MIT Space Exploration Initiative

Artist

Erin Genia

Multidisciplinary artist, educator and community organizer

USA

Collection

Sojourner 2020

2020

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