Thirty seven years today, the 27th March 1973, Sacheen Littlefeather, a young activist from the Apachi tribe, showed up at the Oscar ceremony, wearing the national costume of her people.
She was holding a piece of paper with Marlon Brando’s statement to read out to the audience and inform the press (1) . In her 45 seconds’ speech, that was all the time she was allotted, it was said that the famous actor would not accept the “Best Actor” Oscar for the movie “The Godfather”.
The reasons given were the ill – treatment of Native Americans in the American Movie Industry and the massacre of the Sioux on 29 December 1890 at the battle of the Wounded Knee.
I will not deal with the malicious comments made such as that she was not a real Indian – she is still refuting them nowadays (2) – or with the criticism against Marlon Brando for not having the courage of a confrontation and the ensuing booing, since his opinions in favour of the Native Americans were already known.
It is interesting though, that the Oscar podium, the brightest ceremony in show biz, became the scene where old scores with the past and the continued injustice of the present required settlement.
Doubtless, the theatrality of the gesture of Littlefeather, even as a show off, a small crescendo, relates, although different, to that of the Sioux Chief, Sitting Bull, when he took off his own person in the famous show “Wild West”.
I am involved in the creation of texts that function as wax moulds hosting memory images. I find my material in human gestures, in historical moments, in buildings, in places remote in space and time, in map imprints, in real or symbolic labels. In Waxtablets personal accounts and testimonies sneak into literary texts as well as encounters with remarkable minds. Memory, as a creation and a presence in the margins of time, confronts an actuality inhumed in the foam of oblivion.