Kuspuk Project marks toll of violence against Native women
It's meant to bring attention to a subject that many people would find grim: the number of Alaska Native women who've been murdered or gone missing. Alaskan artist Amber Webb is paying tribute to some of them by drawing their portraits on a giant kuspuk that she created.
Webb, who is Aleut and Yupik, said her kuspuk project is something she's been thinking about for a long time, in part, because of friends she lost in Dillingham and Anchorage where she grew up.
Most of the women she draws she's never met. Some disappeared, others were victims of domestic violence-- murdered by loved ones or strangers.
Webb said she wants people to see the women as they lived in the hopes that something can change.
"Part of the reason I wanted to do a project like this, that showed portraits, is because I really wanted people to look at these women and see the life-- see them smiling, see them as human beings," Webb said. "Because, I think when you just see names or little clips on the news, I don't think that you really feel the impact of the loss for the Native community."
Webb said Native woman are marginalized, which makes it easier for society to look the other way when some meet violent ends. Her kuspuk project puts their faces in full view.
"Looking at a project like this might inspire people not to look the other way anymore. When they see things like this, maybe it will have an impact."
Webb draws some of her portraits from photos she finds in news accounts, but more and more, families are reaching out to her and sending pictures of their loved ones. Most of them contact her through her Facebook page: lmarpik Ink by Amber Webb.
"I think when people saw what I was doing they become more interested in sharing their stories with me."
Webb said the response to the portraits has been positive-- especially from the families of women who have contacted her.
"Paying tribute to these women's lives and giving their families something to remember them by, too," Webb said. "Really it's just honoring their memories."
The kuspuk will be displayed at the Alaska Native Heritage Center on March 3. Webb hopes people will stop by and see if they recognize any of the faces. She said she'd love more information about the women and their lives.
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