On Thursday, June 9, 2022, PIDC and Group X, a group of Philadelphia-based artists, curators, and organizers whose members are anonymous, unveiled their latest and first permanent public art project at the Navy Yard: Alpha Sacred Beings (The Origin of Creation) by lead artist, Marianela Fuentes, whose previous works in her Sacred Beings series have roots with the Huichol or Wixárika indigenous people of Mexico. This piece is a monument symbolizing a bridge between two Indigenous Nations.
This unveiling event had a sacredness about it. We heard from all the collaborators of the project. The lead artist, Marianela Fuentes, who told us about her background and what this project meant to her. Then from Reverend Dr. John Norwood, Jr., a Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Councilman and Judge, who greeted us in the tribal language. He was an integral part of this collaboration ensuring the representation of the Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation was accurate. Leonard Harmon and Roberta Flores, artists from the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, ensured the artist understood and prioritized which parts of the Lenni-Lenaper history should be represented on Alpha Sacred Beings. And after the ribbon cutting, we were graced by a performance by the Red Blanket Singers, a Southern Style Native American Drum and Dance Group representing the Nanticoke, Lenape, Haliwa-Saponi, and Mohawk Tribes. The members of this group ranged in age, from young children to elder adults. Listening to the beat of the drum and sounds of the voices singing left the audience in awe. And finally, to bring everyone together, all attendees all participated in a Round Dance where we held hands as one.
This is a must-see piece of art. The designs were created on a life-sized Parasaurolophus dinosaur skeleton, which once walked the land in both Delaware Valley and Mexico. The Parasaurolophus dinosaur, name meaning “near crested lizard”, is significant because it is the biological cousin of the Velofrons, Marianela’s first full-size dinosaur sculpture. It is the most scientifically accurate dinosaur the artist has ever created and is the first to be fully modeled after an almost entirely discovered dinosaur skeleton.
The bead design was created in partnership with Leonard Harmon and Roberta Flores. These images tell stories from our region’s original people; they are stewards of all the land throughout the Delaware Valley and Philadelphia, or “Coaquannock”, and still live here today.
The turtle on the crown symbolizes all the land throughout North America. Around the dinosaur’s hips is a wampum belt that was given to recognize the friendship treaty under the Shackamaxon Elm between William Penn (“Mikwon”), and Tamanend (“the Affable One”). Along the spine, fire, water, wind, mountain, moon, sun, and stars appear in a set of seven to represent Seven Generations. The four cardinal directions are represented on each limb. Flora and fauna native to our region also appear throughout the beadwork. As with all things, from the tip of the tail to the end of the nose, the monument begins and ends in the stars.
The artist and two assistants hand beaded the skeleton over 10 weeks in Mexico City and it was then brought to Philadelphia to be assembled on-site, using an estimated million beads to complete.
Alpha Sacred Beings can be found in League Island Park, located at 11th & Constitution Ave. The Navy Yard is open to the public from sunrise to sunset. Be sure to come down to see this beautiful and inspiring installation and be sure to tag us in your photos! More info about Alpha Sacred Beings at https://navyyard.org/sacredbeings.