GREENSBORO — While walking through the streets of Wilmington, you may be surprised to see the faces of local Lumbees but that’s what residents got as they unveiled the murals of Miss Lumbee Madison Davenport and Tecumseh Jones.
In August, Robeson County residents gathered to witness their own being displayed on murals on the streets of Greensboro.
“They were in tears when they saw it. They were very excited for me,” Davenport said of her family.
Marty Kotis III, a member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, attended The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s 2016 spring commencement ceremony. Kotis was inspired by the unique ceremony, which traditionally begins with the Lumbee ambassadors, Little Miss Lumbee, Junior Miss Lumbee, Teen Miss Lumbee and Miss Lumbee leading the chancellor, deans and board members while an American Indian flutist performs.
“That’s kinda where he had a passion for the Lumbee people and the community. He said that we had such positive energy,” said Davenport, who was Miss UNCP at the time.
Kotis said he felt as if he had been transported to another time and place. The experience pushed Kotis, a Greensboro resident and a fan of street art, to commission Australian street artist Matt Adnate, who has become internationally known for his spray-painted murals of Australia’s indigenous Aborigines and Tibetan refugees.
Adnate’s website reads in part that the artist “has always held a connection towards indigenous people of their native land, especially with Indigenous Australians. He paints large-scale murals in the main cities around Australia and the world, creating a statement of reclaiming the land that was always theirs. He endeavors to capture the stories and emotions of each subject he paints, encouraging the audience to feel through their own experience.”
Davenport said most people don’t know that there is a large Lumbee community in Greensboro. Kotis wanted to represent them in the city, too.
“It was frightening at first but it is very exciting because I never thought, like as a little girl, it would be me representing over 55,000 members of the tribe,” Davenport said.
Davenport said she gave Adnate a tobacco tie, which is a common gift among the culture, that represents giving blessings.
“They just loved the positive energy between us,” she said.
Kotis is a developer and wanted the murals to be a part of his Tracks project to change the area in which the murals are located into a street art and entertainment district. Kotis said that he wanted the area to appeal to millennials.
Davenport’s mural is located on Gate City Boulevard and Eugene Street under the Eugene Street bridge, and Jones’ is near Burger Warfare in the midtown district.
Adnate and his wife arrived a week before the reveal and took photos of Davenport and Jones. Davenport said they completed the mural of her within a two-day span.
“It was amazing working with them,” she said. “You can tell they’re very talented.”
Davenport watched videos of the artists painting the project, but limited what she saw beforehand so she would get the full impact when the finished art was revealed.
“I tried to limit myself from seeing it because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise,” she said.
Davenport, 20, was crowned in July during the Lumbee Homecoming, becoming the second woman to receive all four titles. Davenport, a junior at UNCP, is studying special education. She is preparing a skit to perform at schools for Native American Heritage month in November.
“We travel so much every day to talk about our culture,” she said.
Jones, 19, is a construction worker from Scotland County. He recently went to Budapest, Hungary, to audition for a role in the BBC series “Jamestown.” The show is about the 1619 British colony of Jamestown, Va. For the role, Jones was required to learn the Native American language Algonquin.
Reach Tomeka Sinclair at 910-416-5865