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Nora Naranjo Morse, Numbe Whageh

The Cuarto Centenario project on view in the East Garden
Nora Naranjo Morse
Tewa – Santa Clara Pueblo
born 1953 Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico; lives Espanola, New Mexico
Numbe Whageh
Earthen work with native plant garden featuring boulders from nearby Pueblo
collection of Albuquerque Public Art (1% for Arts Funds, City of Albuquerque)
Drone footage, City of Albuquerque, 2019; Charles Barber, PG, Environmental Services Division, Environmental Health Department; Cynthia Abeyta, Survey Division, Department of Municipal Development

The title of Nora Naranjo Morse’s earthwork, Numbe Whageh, comes from the Tewa language spoken by Pueblo peoples in Northern New Mexico and refers to a spiritual center place. The term can also refer to a sacred area or metaphorically as a sacred, spiritual place within a human being. The work is comprised of a spiral path that opens to the east and is surrounded by an area planted with native flora and boulders carved by women from nearby Pueblos. The path gently descends into the center where a small solar-powered fountain features a stream of water pouring over a Pueblo water serpent carved into the surface of a boulder. The water serpent “Ah venu” in Tewa, signifies goodness, well-being, and prosperity. Another pathway extends upward out of the spiral and ends at a boulder sourced from Acoma Pueblo.

The process of planning and installing the sculpture was difficult and not without controversy. In response to the challenges that surrounded the Cuarto Centenario Project, Naranjo Morse stated, “The city wanted the Cuarto Centenario sculpture to be a solution to historical trauma. This particular project wasn't going to have that easy solution, It was very difficult to navigate through this [territory] that had been started almost 400 years ago. We're wearing different clothing and living at a different time, but I truly believe many of the same issues still exist. That's why this project is epic; it comes back to remind us that historical trauma continues unless we actively and frankly seek solutions.”