Barona Cultural Center & Museum hosts ‘Native American Science: make your own pastels’

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People all over the world have been using these natural pigments for tens of thousands of years. Just last year they discovered the oldest cave painting, 40,000 years old. And there are more discoveries every day. Here in this land we have rock art and cave art. Mallory Genaner, education coordinator for the Barona Cultural Center & Museum said that for thousands of years, the Kumeyaay/Diequeño people utilized its resources to create homes, tools and art.

People all over the world have been using these natural pigments for tens of thousands of years. Just last year they discovered the oldest cave painting, 40,000 years old. And there are more discoveries every day. Here in this land we have rock art and cave art. Mallory Genaner, education coordinator for the Barona Cultural Center & Museum said that for thousands of years, the Kumeyaay/Diequeño people utilized its resources to create homes, tools and art.

On Oct. 10, the Barona Museum held an art class for children ages 7 through 17 in the science behind creating natural paints used in the many ways the tribes ancestors did for ages.

Stan Rodriquez (Santa Ysabel and Martha Rodriquez (San Jose de la Zara) spent the afternoon teaching the children on how to make these natural pigments from elements of the earth found here in the East County landscape.

Gananer said that the yellow comes from a soil that you can see out here on driving along the road.

“You see the colors, the red, orange and yellow,” she said. “That’s where it comes from. You can go to the side of the road and grab a handful of it. Then you have to grind it and then you can use it for paint.”

She said when you burn something it causes a chemical reaction so when you burn the yellow color it becomes ash. A chemical reaction happens that turns the pigment to red. The black is charcoal.

“When you burn wood or animal bone it makes this really black charcoal,” she said. “So that fire creates the change. The white is a natural color, so when you add things, it also changes color. So these four colors are natural colors that we have here. It’s our local palette.”

White (Diatomite, used for paints, filters, absorbents and a natural insecticide) was also made from seashells that you grind to a fine powder. Not only was it used for paint, but also medicinal purposes. They use the red color, spread it on their skin and it is used as sunscreen as a natural protection. It is also used for makeup and body painting.

“When you have these natural pigments, you need something to make it stick, a binder. It doesn’t always stick in powder form,” said Gananer.

Martha Rodriguez said taking a little of the red (Hematite, iron ore, used for cabochons, beads, small sculptures. tumbled stones and many believe that tumbled pieces are healing stones, bringing relief for certain medical problems) and when it is ground there is a powder which women used as a rouge.

“We also use plants, like the elderberry. All of these things women used as makeup and to add color to clothing,” she said.

Stan Rodriquez said after the stone is ground it needs a binder.

“There are many things that can be used as binders,” he said. “Some of the things that are used are sap from the milkweed, another is cactus, which once it is boiled it has a natural stickiness to it. Seeds from the wild cucumber sap from the agave plant, eggs, water from acorns. For painting on pottery, you grind some pigment into a fine powder and mix it with ground up clay. Using binder from boiled cactus will keep it on there and you do that before you fire it.”

This is one of the series of classes for children during San Diego Museum Council’s Kids Free in October classes. Held at the Community Center adjacent to the museum, more than a dozen children, accompanied by parents took part in learning the art of creating pastel pigments from natural ingredients found within the region.

There is a Rabbit Sticks Class on Nov. 7, with Stan Rodriquez teaching adults 18 and older on how to make rabbit sticks for hunting rabbits in open fields. The cost is $25 for the public and free to Barona tribal members. RSVP the museum by Oct. 30 to attend this class.

To find out more about the Barona Cultural Center & Museum and the many upcoming programs it sponsors visit www.baronamuseum.org or call (619) 443-7003, ext. 219.

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