Julius Badoni grew up in Blue Gap/Tachee, Arizona, on the Navajo reservation. His clans are Ma’ii Deeshgiizhinii (Coyote Pass Clan) and Tó díchʼíiʼnii (Bitter Water Clan). Navajo is his primary language. Julius witnessed firsthand the exploitation of his tribe, which later informed his artistic endeavors. He also has been greatly inspired by his parents, artists themselves, who sadly passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic. He says this profound loss will likely change his approach to art in the future. Julius earned a Bachelor of Science degree in American Indian studies from Arizona State University and spent 12 years working in various capacities within Native communities. He is passionate about planting Native heirloom seeds, and helping to revive farming and food sovereignty in his family, community, and across Indian Country.
“I created a triptych, a work of art divided into three sections, or three carved panels printed together in relief printmaking technique, with each 4”x6” design cut from linoleum. I chose the theme, ‘Water is Life,’ and depicted water from the community, scientific, and universal viewpoints. These panels show the integral role water plays in creating and sustaining life on earth, and the reverence we have for it as Indigenous people. We believe water is sacred and indispensable; not something to be quantified, divided, contaminated, and sold for profit. The middle image, the lady in the cornfield, has been used over the years for water sustainability messaging.” —Julius Badoni
What does the idea of “justice for Native communities” mean to you?
When I think of justice, the Navajo word “Hózhó” comes to mind. It is thought to be the most important word in the Navajo language and is loosely translated as “peace, balance, beauty, and harmony.” To be “in Hózhó” is to be at one with, and a part of, the world around you. Justice for my community would be a return to Hózhó and would begin by having our land and resources returned and restored after over 500 years of colonization.
What do you think needs to happen in the world to achieve justice for Native communities?
It must start with changes within Native families because families make up communities, and communities make nations. Also, our Indigenous cultures must adapt to modern technology for us to survive. Our ancestors loved innovation, which is a primary reason why we are still here. We face a similar challenge today, but coupled with that, is the heavy lift to re-establish kinship within our communities while also healing from the ongoing effects of colonization, which to me, is the systematic process through which Indigenous people are dispossessed of their lands, knowledge, languages, cultures, ceremonies, and ability to CREATE.
How do you express justice through your artwork?
My art is a protest in various mediums (oil, acrylic, charcoal, and graphite) to raise awareness about the effects of colonization on Indigenous communities. Creating art comes out of a need to express my frustration with the complacency that is a direct result of injustice within Native communities, justified by stereotypes and misrepresentation of Indigenous peoples. I believe in educating and unifying people through my art. “Beauty” is another translation for “Hózhó,” and I would like to think that there is beauty in all my artwork because there is beauty in truth.
Is there anything else you would like to share about Native justice and your artwork?
My art is the result of an interaction with people (communities) and the world around me. It is the Indigenous process of storytelling fused with the fourth world that my people now find themselves in. I want my art to assist in the promotion of the cultural sovereignty of Indigenous people in the Americas.