CHAPEL HILL A newly completed artwork, “The Gift,” reflects new beginnings in a place for all people, says its creator.
The university wanted art that reflects every culture, said Senora Lynch, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe located in Halifax and Warren counties.
She hopes others will feel connected to her work’s meaning, she said at a rededication ceremony this month on the UNC campus..
“When I was a young girl, I was told by my mom that everybody has a gift,” Lynch said. “Everybody can do something, and I hope as you walk along this walkway, that you feel that you have a gift that you can share as well.”
She first designed the breezeway – roughly 240 feet by 40 feet between the Frank Porter Graham Student Union buildings – using colored brick in a pattern reminiscent of Native American beadwork. That phase of the project, executed by UNC brickmasons, was dedicated in 2004 and included a nearby plaque explaining the images
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and university officials joined state tribal leaders, the N.C. American Indian Health Board and Lynch at the site Aprl 10 to mark the end of phase two and rededicate the artwork.
Plaques weighing 400 pounds each now flank columns along the plaza, with 200- to 300-pound seats resembling Native American drums scattered around them. Symbols common among North Carolina’s eight tribes – such as the turtle, a symbol of long life, fertility and the generations to come, and dogwood flowers, which represent the gift of new beginnings – decorate the plaques and seats.
The ceremony also featured Lynch’s daughter Elizabeth Qua Lynch performing a “Corn Planting Dance,” a memorial song and a prayer for UNC junior Faith Hedgepeth and her family. Hedgepeth, killed at her off-campus apartment in 2012, was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe.
“I watched her grow up as a little girl, getting on the bus with my daughter, and we know what happened to her here, her short life,” Lynch said. “You know, the creator takes care of things in ways we don’t understand, so let’s just take a moment, give silence and ask that her family come to some peace and harmony with this in the right way.”