Current town: Collingswood, NJ
Bio: Jeremy Newman has directed numerous documentary and experimental videos. His work is frequently shown at film festivals and has also aired on several PBS stations. He is Associate Professor of Communications at Stockton University. Newman earned an MFA in Media Arts from The Ohio State University.
What are you currently working on?
The Lenni-Lenape Indians, translated as “men of men,” are sovereigns who occupied a vast territory on the east coast for more than 10,000 years. Over the centuries, they spawned many Algonquian tribes including the Nanticoke. Today, there are three historic tribal communities in the Delaware Bay region who share a common Lenni-Lenape and Nanticoke ancestry. My documentary is about the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation in Cumberland County, NJ.
During the 17th century, the Lenni-Lenape entered nation-to-nation agreements with the Swedes, Finns and British. These treaties include the exchange of wampum belts between Chief Tamanend and William Penn in 1682. However, by the early 19th century, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape lived under the threat of forced removal. This danger continued into the 1920s, and local hostilities lasted even longer. The tribe remained in southern New Jersey, and maintained its sovereignty, by living in self-isolating family clans who governed themselves in their tribal (Methodist) churches.
By the late 1970s, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape adopted a constitutional government with an elected chief and council. Subsequently, they’ve reclaimed many of the traditions that previous generations couldn’t practice in public. In 1982, the State of New Jersey officially recognized the tribe, providing them with limited access to federal protections and benefits. Yet, tribal leaders are now fighting to defend their status, in both state and federal court, after enduring years of politically motivated assaults and the erosion of their rights.
The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape are an historically continuous American Indian tribe. As a result, their contemporary realities are inexorably linked to the past. For instance, their political struggles date back to first contact with European settlers, and the traditions that they practice are thousands of years old. Additionally, their actions extend tribal history forward. In fact, tribal leaders make their decisions in full consideration of the impact on the next seven generations. This relationship between past, present and future has shaped the nature of my film.
What’s your art background?
I studied Art and Art History in college. In graduate school, I shifted to Media Arts with my focus being film. This is when I began to make experimental films and documentaries. Essentially, they both represent a visual orientation to the world. At times, the distinction between the two is blurred.
Describe your current state of mind.
I’m quite concerned about this country and the world. But, I’m always looking for reasons to be hopeful. Millions of people are using their freedom of speech to condemn intolerance and promote human rights. I believe that this is truly important.
What’s inspiring you?
Nature inspires me. So does the courage of ordinary people in the world. I’m also inspired by the creativity and curiosity of children.
Do you regularly collaborate with other artists?
I often collaborate with the fiber artist Rachel Blythe Udell. These works tend to be small drawings that combine my use of line and her sense of color. Rachel also transforms my drawings into embroideries.
What was the last exhibit you attended?
The Mexican Modernism show at the PMA was great. In particular, I was struck by the Orozco mural The Epic of American Civilization.
What was the first piece of artwork you bought/ do you buy a lot of artwork?
I first bought a piece by an artist in Baltimore named Loring Cornish. It’s a mirror surrounded by toys that are attached with cement.