The Painted Desert Project is the creation of Chip Thomas also known as Jetsonorama, who is an artist/activist and medical doctor who has dedicated his personal resources to bring beauty and inspiration into the community which he has made his home for the past 22 years. In 2009, he began drawing from his archive of photographs, choosing images of local people and enlarging them and pasting them up on buildings on the Rez. This practice evolved into the Painted Desert Project.
His commitment and generosity of spirit is truly inspiring and my time there was deeply profound. The kids in the mural are both local Dine kids and the image was sourced from one of Jetsonorama's photos. The river on the front of the mural represents the confluence of the Colorado RIver with the Little Colorado River which is a sacred site for the Dine People.
Currently, this Sacred Site is being threatened by developers who want to destroy the place in the interests of profit; for their capitalist agenda. There is a movement to protect this place please read more about it here and make sure to sign their petition: Save the Confluence
I was given a phrase by one of the leaders of Save the Confluence; Renae Yellowhorse; to paint on the sign above the mural. The phrase is “Sa’ah Naaghaii Bik’eh Hozhoon” which represents the central theme of Dine philosophy. It’s not easy to condense the meaning into a readily digestible translation in english and I should not even try for fear of doing it an injustice. There is much written about this phrase by Navajo Scholars. This particular spelling of it was given to Renae by one of those scholars. The essence of the concept deals with balance between all things which give life; a blessing way, a respect and restoration of balance. There is an interesting essay written about it here. Much more can be found online if one were to seek it out or better yet, find a person Native to that Nation and ask them to speak to you about it. Navajo is a spoken language, so even attempting to write about it is insufficient to comprehend the fullness.
Much gratitude to Chip for inviting and hosting me.