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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A with Elder in Residence Senora Lynch

Senora Lynch, member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe and newly selected 2013 Elder in Residence for the UNC American Indian Center will discuss “The Gift” — her mosaic design on a walkway outside the Student Union — tonight.

Staff writer Sarah Ang spoke with Lynch about being selected for the residency, her past projects and what inspires her pottery.

Daily Tar Heel: How does it feel being chosen as the 2013 Elder in Residence, and what do you plan to accomplish?

Senora Lynch: I’m very honored to be asked to come as an elder — though I don’t think of myself as one. Sometimes when you hear elder it’s compared to age, but it’s also compared to who you respect.

I have a lot to learn in life. I have a long way to go before I reach the elder status, because life teaches you a lot.

But I’ll share what’s been given to me and I’ll try to represent all the tribes in North Carolina as I come to UNC.

I want to enlighten people and let them know there are many Indian people who live in North Carolina.

Hopefully, they’ll get a better understanding of the tribe, the community we come from and learn more about our culture.

DTH: Many people walk through “The Gift” without realizing what it is. Can you elaborate about the project?

SL: They were going to designate the Student Union as a place for student diversity, and they wanted to make sure it represented all cultures.

I was, of course, very nervous. I’d never done anything like that, of that direction or that scale.

I went back to the drawing board, trying to relate things that were part of Indian culture as a whole, but also things that can relate to other people as they live their life.

I have dogwood flowers for the springtime and new beginnings. It’s perfect for college kids because you step onto the University and you have a new beginning — you have a fresh start in life.

DTH: Can you tell me more about your artwork, in terms of being part of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe?

SL: I consider my work a contemporary and traditional style of pottery.

It has a lot of traditional elements: the hand-coiling, the red clay, and that it’s hand-built. It’s contemporary because you wouldn’t have found old Native American pottery as elaborate as mine. But you would find important symbols like turtles, birds, eagles and bears.

DTH: Do you think your art helps your tribe in a way?

SL: I do. It’s like an oral history being passed down through the pottery. It also helps us to hold on to something — to what we do have. And we do have the earth, we have our elders, we have our stories.

DTH: Have you always been interested in art?

SL: All my life, I’ve done some kind of art with my hands. I’ve always created and looked at things as beautiful. Everything, in my opinion, is art.

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