Arts + Culture

'Launching a Dream: Reviving Tongva Maritime Traditions' opens June 5 at Fowler Museum

In September 1996, for the first time in more than 200 years, Southern California's Native American Tongva community launched a sewn plank canoe, or ti’at, into the channel waters off Santa Catalina Island. A crew of five paddlers guided the vessel, Mo’omat Ahiko (Breath of the Ocean), 12 miles along the rugged coastline of the sacred island known to them as Pimu.
Since that day, the Tongva have experienced an incredible renaissance of their traditional ocean-faring culture — scheduling festivals, "village hops" and gatherings involving the canoes.  
The sewn plank canoe culture is distinctive, and only a few places in the Pacific outside of Southern California, including Marshall and Gilbert islands, utilize this technology.
"Launching a Dream: Reviving Tongva Maritime Traditions" — on view at the Fowler Museum at UCLA from June 5 through Sept. 18 — features 40 black-and-white images by photographers Frank Magallanes and Althea Edwards that document the rebirth of this rare and ancient maritime tradition of the Southern California coastal and Channel Islands indigenous peoples.
These powerful photographs offer an intimate view of the construction and launching of, and the communal celebrations surrounding, these unique and important vessels, envisioned by tribal members as key symbols of Native identity and cultural resurgence. With the building and launching of these vessels, a seemingly vanished tradition was rejuvenated and now flourishes within the Tongva and Chumash communities.
Since 1996, Magallanes and Edwards have chronicled the activities of Southern California’s indigenous peoples, with a specific focus on the maritime traditions of the Tongva and Chumash. They are frequent contributors to News from Native California magazine, and their images have appeared in numerous publications and are on display at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian. Collectively known as Studio 5150, they also assist artists and photographers with the production of photographic/fine art editions for exhibitions worldwide.
Additional Information
"Launching a Dream: Reviving Tongva Maritime Traditions" will be on view in the Fowler Museum's Goldenberg Galleria. The exhibition is curated by Cindi Alvitre, Moompetam (Salt Water People), co-founder of the Ti’at Society, and Wendy Teeter, curator of archaeology for the Fowler Museum. 
The Fowler Museum at UCLA is one of the country's most respected institutions devoted to exploring the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas. The Fowler is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The Fowler Museum, part of UCLA Arts, is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. Parking is available for a maximum of $10 in Lot 4. For more information, the public may call 310-825-4361 or visit
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