Honoring Culture through Art
Educator and artist Linda Dumas Wade celebrates her rich ancestryBy Donna Campbell Smith
Linda Dumas Wade, who is an artist, quilter, jewelry maker, singer, writer and educator, is the curator of Mustee Folk Art. This unique style of art combines artifacts, symbols, elements and styles of African/African American and Native American cultures in several mediums, including quilting and acrylic paintings on canvas.
Linda’s art represents both her African and Native American heritage. She created Mustee Folk Art for the remembrance and awareness mixed-blooded people and their descendants — those she explains as being stripped of their heritage rights, as they were historically undocumented and labeled Negro or Mulatto in early censuses.
Linda first became aware of her mixed-blood heritage through family oral history.
“I always felt something spiritual that made me keep researching my heritage,” she says.
To verify the stories told by her grandfather, she eventually turned to DNA testing and learned that her father’s great-grandmother’s Native American ancestry traced to the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations.
She learned of the term “Mustee” when reading the 1919 issue of “The Journal of Negro History” while researching her own roots. In the journal, historian and writer Carter G. Woodson used the word in reference to people of mixed African/African American and Native American descent.
Personal growth through art
Linda began her art career in Dayton, Ohio, in the 1980s. She attended Sinclair Community College, majoring in Commercial Art and Executive Secretarial, obtaining her associate degree. She successfully completed jewelry courses at the Riverbend Art Center, including courses in wax sculpturing, jewelry casting and silversmithing.
“My dream is that Mustee Folk Art becomes an accepted form of art and my work one day be displayed in the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and Culture.”
Linda created her first piece of Mustee Folk Art in 1995. Titled “Spirit Blower,” it is a painted and embroidered quilt. She works with vivid primary colors and earth tones. Her art is currently exhibited at the Artists’ Art Center in Spring Hope and Triangle Cultural Gallery in Raleigh.
In her mission to foster awareness of the Mustee culture, Linda teaches art to children, having taught at the Vital Link Private School in Raleigh and the after-school program in Bunn. She created an art curriculum for children, “Arts in Education: Color and Learn,” which includes coloring and workbooks.
As a U.S. Army veteran who suffers from PTSD, Linda credits art for helping her cope whenever she feels like withdrawing from the outside world. She immerses herself in her artwork. She has shared her story of how art has helped her cope with PTSD in a program titled “Mental Health and How It Works for You,” offered through the Raleigh chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Continuing her quest to share her knowledge, Linda has chronicled all she has learned about her family history into a book, “In My DNA.” Her purpose is to make the results of her years of research available to family members who want to know more about their heritage.
Where does Linda Dumas Wade want to go from here?
“My dream is that Mustee Folk Art becomes an accepted form of art and my work one day be displayed in the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and Culture,” she says.
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