Printmaker Kimberly Robertson Brings Radical Kinship to Life “In Aunties We Trust"

By: Savanna Morgan
Editor: J. Cuevas

When first-generation college student Kimberly Robertson was progressing toward her undergraduate degree, art-making was not a plausible option for study. Like many young people in their college years, Robertson opted for opportunities that led toward a more conventional job, specifically as an educator at the collegiate level. Now a burgeoning printmaker, she first found her work difficult to consider “art.”

As a self-described “DIY artist”, she believes the way society formally defines art is about “capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy and can be quite elitist and exclusionary.” However, Kimberly has always loved creative work and the meticulosity of working with your own hands; having done work with beads and print Gocco for over 20 years. Her recent works produced at SHG include indigenous-themed artwork to address the relationship between Indigenous Feminism and Radical Kinship.

Her earlier, more informal practices of art making have found their way into her professional life working in multimedia arts as the founder of the Green Corn Collective. Alongside JusticeLA, this collective posted jail-beds on public grounds all over the City of Los Angeles. Their (Green Corn Collective) installation ended up at the steps of Walt Disney Concert Hall. Titled “Mass Incarceration Since 1492,” the jail-beds promoted solidarity within black and brown people as it relates to incarceration, police brutality, and homicides. The jail-bed work is rooted in the early colonial moments of oppression of native peoples, specifically at the rate at which indigenous people suffer from police brutality.

Kimberly’s featured print for SHG’s upcoming Annual Print Fair is titled “In Aunties We Trust,” further expressing her indigenous consciousness. As a woman of Mvskoke ancestry, several times displaced from her tribal nation’s southeastern homeland, she often explores how practices and ceremonies from past generations are relevant to her as an urban woman with a history of displacement. Doing so, she has visualized what are called “Deer Women” stories from Native mythology and re-imagined these stories for the modern moment. “In Aunties We Trust” is an illustration of “Las Aunties,” her short story that was published in Native Realities. The piece is an homage to aunties who, in Native culture, are the metaphoric “village” that helps to raise a child. As a self-described single mother, low-income and displaced native, she acknowledges that her family relationships have been fractured in many ways. What she has chosen to do as a result of those challenges is to construct a “chosen” family. The support system she has built for her daughters, amongst other women of color, is the “Auntie network”. She recognizes it as a native feminist practice that women have used for centuries to relate to one another. She calls this practice “radical kinship”. The radical kinship is a way of resisting the settler-state of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy which has long exploited and severed the ties of indigenous women.

"Some people measure their wealth in fast cars or fat wallets, in fancy dinners or fine jewelry. Where I came from, we measure our wealth in aunties. This print is dedicated to the auntie alliance- the posse of knowledge and wielding warriors - who love us into our best selves,” said Artist, Kimberly Robertson.

Robertson’s expression of native feminist consciousness is the dominant theme of her featured print. From the ribbon-skirt and it’s celebration of native femme identity to the sage plants that men and women use as sacred medicine to cleanse themselves, “In Aunties We Trust” incorporates radical kinship ideas to remind us that our relatives are not just those we are biologically connected to in this lifetime.

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Savanna Morgan is a Self Help Graphics & Art Intern from University of Notre Dame.