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Native Lens: Sèng Wah


Native Lens


Throughout my professional career, my primary mission has been to create opportunities and resources for Native youth in ways I never had. The short film, Sèng Wah, is one example of how I can do so. As a Native artist, I have overcome various barriers to retaining my artistic and cultural identity in the World of the Arts. The sole purpose of my film series, Azhish!: Stories in Motion, is to allow young Native artists to share their stories on their terms, which I will guide them with the knowledge I have gained through my career. As creative director of the series, it is my job to mentor these young artists, help them create their choreography, write their scripts, and capture the visual aesthetic they wish to portray to the world. All while ensuring that they retain their cultural roots and showcase their perspectives as contemporary Native peoples living today.

Sèng Wah was the first film of the Azhish! series, highlighting a young Native ballet dancer from San Ildefonso Pueblo named Than Povi Martinez.

I worked with Than Povi to break down the walls she built up over her years to sustain a career in a predominantly white-dominated ballet world. She and I spent time talking and brainstorming on how she wanted to share her story. She expressed that her goal was to feel real and true to herself whenever she danced. She created her story through rehearsals through movement, and we filmed her completed choreography in a beautiful desert in Arizona. When I asked Than Povi what she would like to name her film, she immediately responded with the phrase Sèng Wah, which means “Be Strong” in Tewa. She shared with me that this was her ultimate motto in her life. No matter her challenges and struggles, she always strives to be strong in her resilience and vulnerability.

Sèng Wah will be one of many films to come from upcoming Native dance artists. With this project, I aim to showcase as many diverse dancers from various tribal communities in ways they are hardly ever shown in mainstream media. I am currently in pre-production on the second film of this series. Stay tuned for updates on this next film in the upcoming year.

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