Helping communities across the state connect their heritage arts and traditions to local development, education, and active citizenship
Rowland, Robeson County, NC
Patricia Brayboy is a Lumbee artist who is proficient in beading—particularly peyote-stitches—and is knowledgeable about not only the history of the Lumbee but also their connection to Robeson County and the Lumber River, the “lifeline and life source” of the tribe. “We are very family-minded people,” she says. “Each community—you’re family-proud, community-proud.”
Brayboy beads, makes moccasins, crochets, makes pots and peace pipes, dyes cloth, and creates found-object pieces. Additionally, she cures tobacco and cans local vegetables. She did not grow up in a family with a background in visual arts, but folk art––the kind that people make and use in everyday life––was all around her. Her interest in native arts comes from her identity, as she feels native deep inside her bones. All art should come from within, in her opinion; she embraces her identity to create, saying “You know who you are as a Native American. Always use it.”
Brayboy’s art itself reflects her exploration of her Lumbee, American, and Christian identities. “We do have to walk in two worlds,” she says of being both Lumbee and an American citizen. One example of her identity impacting her approach to work is that “I always put a piece in mine that doesn’t go in there. If we bead the perfect piece, our spirit doesn’t rest until that piece is destroyed, because we’re trying to say we’re better than the creator.” Another is how she represents the Lumber River, which Brayboy speaks of with reverence. “Fish, transportation, our water system…Our people gathered around the swamps of Robeson County, that was where we hid out,” she says of the efforts to enslave or exterminate the native people of southeastern North Carolina. “The Lumber River, that was our lifeline.”
Brayboy has started a new tradition in her family of creating art: “My son does some artwork, and my daughter does some beadwork.” And she insists that, for her, making art is more than just a hobby, or even a passion “Art is not what I do,” she says, “art is who I am.” With the care that she puts into her craft, and her knowledge of Lumbee traditions, she will surely inspire more folks young and old to explore, play with, and pay homage to who they are and where they come from.