In the Native Lenape tradition, art and utility are connected; “Our art and the usefulness of an object are not separated by invisible lines," says, Tyrese "Bright Flower" Gould Jacinto, a master artist and member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe. This idea of connectivity is significant to the Indigenous way of life and worldview. Rigid boundaries between people and nature, for example, simply don’t exist, and a sense of fluidity is allowed to move through the community; supporting its values and emerging in its art through generations. Gourd art provides a particularly exceptional representation of this Indigenous concept. With a long history of everyday use and functionality as well as a medium for creative cultural expression, the gourd has profound meaning to the Lenape people. Seeds that spring forth the life of a gourd today are the same seeds the Native Lenape ancestors planted thousands of years ago. The fruit is symbolic of this traditional ancestry, and the making of gourd art, a manifestation of the links between the generations. 

It stands to reason then that Annalyse Cooper, also a member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe, would be moved to learn how to master Lenape art forms, such as Gourd Art, from her mother, Tyrese. Beginning this fall and throughout the coming year, the two will embark on a journey of teaching and learning as mother and daughter through the New Jersey State Arts Council’s Folk Arts Apprenticeship program. The Native Lenape No-Face Doll fashioned from gourds that must be grown and dried before becoming transformed will be the focus of their study. When thinking of the ancestry of seeds, it seems a fitting place to start. Just as each seed of the gourd bears the mark of its ancestor, a daughter will bear the cultural knowledge gifted to her from her mother. Together they will set an intention of passing on their sacred expression, doing their part to ensure the survival of their tribal community’s traditions.