I have to thank my friend, and past director of the Acadiana Center for the Arts Rose Courville, for suggesting to me a few great Louisiana artists for the My Louisiana Muse project. Rose told me about the photographer Jenny Ellerbe who was producing some great black and white documentary work of rural North Louisiana. After looking Jenny up and speaking with her about my project, we realized that her new photo essay documenting the Poverty Point World Heritage Site and the many Indian mounds of North Louisiana was the perfect addition to My Louisiana Muse.
I had heard of Poverty Point as a child growing up in Lafayette. I knew that it was some sort of Indian mound, and what I learned that day walking around the mounds really blew me away. The mounds were created by humans and little is known about them to this day. Where exactly did they come from? Why did they leave? But one fact is for certain: the mounds were built by American Indians and at one time were an ancient residential, trade and ceremonial center. Some nearby mounds even predate the Great Pyramids! We have this in Louisiana y'all!
At this point in my journey documenting these artists all around Louisiana, some major themes are beginning to drive my own inspiration and inquisitiveness. There exists a very strong and coherent connection to each artist I have spoken with where the land of Louisiana, in some way, is the powerful factor that inspires. With Adam Morales it was the driftwood and God showing him the way and with Melissa Bonin it was the swamp. Our surroundings and the land are our first teacher, as the poet Darrell Bourque would say, so we can assume we are continuing to learn from our 1st teacher as we explore the themes of our own calling and art.
Jenny Ellerbe has been documenting not only the Poverty Point mounds, but also the efforts of local preservationists to locate, preserve, and learn from the many existing mounds on private property in the area. Ellerbe’s latest gallery show – Shared Earth presents this ongoing struggle to save these gold mines of knowledge so that we can learn from civilizations past.
At the end of the sweltering summer day atop this large mound, I had a vision of these people as they lived and worked the land. The land gave them water to drink and food to eat, and using primitive tools they crafted individual rows of dirt for their living space. I began to see their connections to the land, and our connections to them. The My Louisiana Muse story began to come full circle at a blistering pace. It was time to head back to send all this film off … and photograph another day.