The materials John Isaiah Pepion (@johnisaiahpepion) uses to create his ledger art — narrative drawing on paper — are the same ones his ancestors used 100 years ago. Combing through antique stores and eBay listings, John, who’s a member of the Blackfeet Nation, collects old ledgers, or accounting books — and sometimes Western Union telegraphs and maps — to create contemporary versions of work made by Plains Indians who were held prisoner in St. Augustine, Florida, in the 1870s. Their artwork, drawn on ledgers with ink, watercolors and pencils and sold to tourists, detailed their lives as warriors. “To me, ledger art is cultural preservation,” says John. “A lot of my pieces are from stories, and a lot of the colors and designs are [original].”
While John takes inspiration from the stories painted on buffalo hides that now hang in museums, he also illustrates current issues facing Native Americans, like oil pipelines crossing through reservations and access to education. “I am inspired by ceremonies and stories, history and personal experience,” he says. “Our ceremonies still go on, our language is still spoken and our culture is alive and well. That is what I want to show, how proud I am and that we are still here.”
Mask (Nganga Diphomba) Artist: Master of Kasadi Date: 19th–early 20th century, inventoried 1937 Geography: Democratic Republic of the Congo, near Tshela, Kasadi village Culture: Kongo peoples; Yombe group Medium: Wood (Ricinodendron heudelotii Baill.), pigments, buffalo hide and hair, metal tacks Credit Line: Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium This artwork is part of Kongo: Power and Majesty, The Met
Meet the “beefalo” - a hybrid between a wild bison and a domestic cow. These animals are often bred not merely for novelty, but also because they are heartier in cold weather, don’t suffer from many diseases that normal stock are susceptible to, and because they produce leaner meat than their domestic counterparts.
I actually started looking into these guys because I purchased a strange pelt on Craigslist last weekend that looked, from the listing photos, to be an abnormally-dark buffalo hide. But when I saw the skin in person, it was clear this was not the case. The hide had characteristics of both domestic cow and wild bison, and because I’d heard of beefalo before without having done much research on the breed, I decided to look into a bit more in-depth.
Bingo. The skin looks like a blackish-brown bison skin with a ‘mane’ and everything, but the hair is a bit more coarse and wiry than you’d expect from a full-blooded bison. The seller initially thought the pelt was from an enormous black bear, to give you an idea as to what kind of fur this thing has. I’ll have to snap some photos of it tomorrow when I’ve got better light.
For now, enjoy the novelty of these amazing hybrids.