Duane Yazzie is Shiprock’s Chapter President and has a stellar resume in his stance and involvement in human rights advocacy, marriage equality, activism and advocacy against anti-extractive industries, being a musician of XIT a major 70’s rock band, and a huge proponent of restoring our Indigenous ways of life. His concern for our people lead to the physical stopping of a hate crime in which he lost his arm however that only emblazoned his resolve which now he has spoken in front of the United Nations numerous times regarding human rights issues.
Duane Yazzie has an impressive political record and has held true to his positions in transitioning to green technology and getting back to our traditional way of government before the colonial model was imposed on our people in 1923. “Chili” has used his voice to express concern for Dine’ future on Dinétah and fearlessly called out delegate members who have sided with other interests over our people and never was this more evident than in his notable, “You are out of order” speech.
In getting to know him personally, I envisioned a visual campaign strategy that would speak directly to our people rather than the cold, empty corporate-looking, design feel the other extractive industry-backed candidates (which spared no monetary expense) were using. His nickname “Chili”, was a designer’s gift from the universe in that I could use it in a variety of different ways and in different mediums.
In considering the campaign, I like to think the artwork had something for everyone of all ages and the imagery was able to speak in a way that took our culture into consideration versus the other design firms hired by the corporate-financed candidates we were up against. Approaching this project in the strategy of “revive, revise and re-write” I was able to weave a number of visual references from our traditions, with old and current popular cultural imagery thereby re-purposing it to fit our need to get the attention of all age groups of Navajo voters so they could consider Mr. Yazzie’s political message and stance on issues.
Sketching while listening to Duane speak about issues that were important to me and our future generations were where the idea of using the corporate chain restaurant, Chili’s came from; it was a very obvious move and much too ripe to pass up on.
Also, deciding to bring back the old cartoon character of Chilly Willy on a t-shirt dressed in our traditional regalia complete in moccasins, turquoise jewelry and a warrior’s cap was a fun way to engage the younger generation which was all but ignored in other campaigns except ours.
The adolescent-targeted t-shirts were based on the re-purposing of Shepard Fairey’s Obama Hope poster which had the goal of using the word ORDER and incorporating the Dine’ bizaad translation of it – which also harkened back to Chili’s outburst in the council chambers and was the slogan of his campaign and his intention, “Restoring Order”.
A Navajo rug design that was based on memories of sitting next to my grandmother and watching her weave for hours was planned for drawing interest from the elder and more traditional generations. The rug’s centerpiece is a logo that I conceived from Mr. Yazzie’s 4 separate colored circles associated with our tradition’s natural order with each color associated with specific ways of thought and teachings that his presidential campaign was built upon. It was a challenge to combine all the elements involved from the four sacred colored circles to using the Window Rock landmark on the front and a constellation of stars which we draw hope and knowledge from but once started, it seemed to naturally flow and come together quite well.
The web design for the presidential campaign was built upon a robust media and calendar platform which was lively and colorful but more importantly functional in providing the organization of attendance of his supporters for the debates, events and rallies in which our presidential candidate was taking part. The site had the technology to link all of the social media accounts which I set up and maintained making my job easier which allowed for better time management and freeing up resources. Monetizing the website to accept donations was key in creating a sustainable campaign to help fund itself and the selling of the various t-shirt designs was an extension of this thought process as well. I would later incorporate this same web-based platform on a much bigger scale pushing the site’s full capabilities and functionality to help organize large art builds for the People’s Climate March.
This was an amazing opportunity and blessing to be able to artistically flex skills in various mediums with the full autonomy of designing a whole presidential campaign from front to back for such a great candidate and now a great friend. No social movement has ever flourished without art and its artists and being able to assist in helping change the future for a better tomorrow is exactly why I love what I do and this is a memory I will always treasure for sure. Thank you to everyone who worked on the campaign, I look forward to many more opportunities to work together to help steer our nation in the right direction and get back to the traditional ways of our people and government. Much love and respect.