Denae Shanidiin is an image maker, ceramicist, and protector of the land, air, and water.
Her work responds to her own identity as an Indigenous artist and as a woman.
This month’s photos were shot in Shanidiin’s studio.
features a distinct and unique member of the community and asks them why they do what they do. Exploring more than just clothing, SLUG Style SLUG Style is an attempt to feature the people who give Salt Lake City flavor through personality and panache.
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“I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, just as my identity as a woman, as a Diné woman. At birth, we’re brought up to be really strong and proud of who we are,” says Shanidiin. “In the Navajo way, you say, ‘Walk in beauty.’ A lot of this turmoil going on in the world right now that we’re all suffering from, non-indigenous people and Indigenous people alike—we have to use our voice.” Photo: @clancycoop
“In my work, I really try to advocate for the public awareness that Indigenous people are the greatest protectors of the land, air, and water,” says Shanidiin. “It’s time that we start listening to our knowledge, because we’ve been here longer than anyone else, and we know how to care for this place longer than anyone else.” Photo: @clancycoop
“What we wear is a reflection of the prayers that we have,” says Shanidiin. “A lot of women wear rug weaving dresses, and in those rug dresses, their families’ prayers are written into them. They’re symbolic. They have meaning. They have spirit.” Photo: @clancycoop
“I’ve never really cared about fashion very much, but I think the way you present yourself is really important,” says Shanidiin. “I realized that when a photographer named Tori Duhaime took my photo up at the Capitol, when Trump was visiting and dismantling Bears Ears, where five sovereign tribes had put together a proposal to protect a huge part of our origins stories and our homelands. I dressed the way that I feel most beautiful: as an Indigenous woman and with my artwork, my sign that says “500 years of Indigenous resistance.” People responded to that. In the last six months, I’d say I’ve been really using that to my advantage, of showing people how beautiful Indigenous people are.” Photo: @clancycoop
“I’m originally from Arizona. I was born in Fort Defiance, born to the Diné Nation, otherwise known as the Navajo Nation. That is where my umbilical cord is buried. In the Navajo way, we do that when we’re born to always keep us connected to home,” says Shanidiin. “A lot of my life and my artwork, I guess more the political work that I’m doing as of now, is centered around that.” Photo: @clancycoop
“Physically, there are all these things that are beautiful, and I talk about our culture being stolen from us,” says Shanidiin. “A lot of the appropriation around Native beauty, you see a lot of the non-indigenous people gravitating towards these things because they’re beautiful. You know there’s a lot of pain in that. They gravitate towards our lands because they’re beautiful. But then also there’s misuse in the way that they’re appreciating these things.” Photo: @clancycoop
“If you look at historical photos, [civil rights protestors’] sign work is really well done,” says Shanidiin, “the beauty of typography and the beauty of really putting design elements into what you’re trying to express. We’re all used to holding up protest signs, but some of them look really bad, which is fine, but I wanted to make really beautiful protest signs. I’m not much of a speaker. I’m a pretty shy person. I don’t really like using my voice, but that was a way of me saying something, dressing the way that I am. Oftentimes I don’t always want to look like a stereotypical Indigenous woman, but I think the public responds and listens to us more when we show them beauty in our own way, and also with very strong words.” Photo: @clancycoop
“When people ask me [about] the things that I’m wearing, I try and explain that it’s much deeper than this colonized word called fashion,” says Shanidiin. “It’s just about who we are and how we represent ourselves.” Photo: @clancycoop