Sandra Okuma

Sandra Okuma is a Luiseno and Shoshone-Bannock from the La Jolla Indian Reservation. She grew up traveling between La Jolla where her father was from and Fort Hall Idaho, home of her mother’s Shoshone- Bannock relations. After a highly successful career in commercial art and graphic design in Los Angeles, Sandra and her husband decided to return the reservation where their only daughter Jamie could be raised to know her heritage, and Sandra began to focus on more traditional Native America artistic expression. In 1998, mother and daughter showed at the Santa Fe Indian Market for the first time, where Sandra won best in paintings. Since that time, many awards and numerous publications have followed.

Nez Perce Translation: Spirit Circles

Photograph by Russell James. Collaborative art by Jamie Okuma (USA), Sandra Okuma (USA).

James’ photography invokes a stark aloneness, interpreted by Jamie and Sandra as the alienation caused by the dizzying array of life choices afforded modern mankind, and the feelings of helplessness and unhealthy choices that often result. The circles in the painted overlay symbolizes a technique of beadwork used in Plateau and Great Basin American Indian patterning, Spirit Circles. The artists surround the woman with grey spirit circles that offer strength and guidance so that she is no longer alone. The red path they have put down for her to follow. Listen to the spirits that are around you, follow the red road to Discovery, let the Spirit Guides show you the way.

Photograph by Russell James. Collaborative art by Jamie Okuma (USA), Sandra Okuma (USA).

James’ photograph captures the timelessness of the land and the circle of life.

Jamie and Sandra Okuma have painted the spirit of the fallen tree, as a metaphor for the ancestors that once inhabited this land. The old tree is lying in, and will one day become, part of the very earth in which the new or young one thrives. He is sending his spirit, his knowledge, strength and courage to the present and beyond, just as our ancestors have done for us. By passing on their land, culture and traditions we are able to adapt and survive through tribal continuity in modern times.