"Each generation has a need for the whum, without the teaching and retelling of its importance, how can we expect to truly communicate and meet each others needs?" -DiAnn Yontry
This project is the retelling of the Yontry family's fundamental beliefs, moments of intimate communication, and efforts to extend these practices to future generations. The practices of the family as a whole, coupled with intimate personal searches, create an individual sense of justification for their practices and rationalizations. I feel that this project highlights the innate human need for belief in something greater than our circumstances, whether we create the belief system or actively participate in a system already in place. The Yontry's now live in the small suburb of Balch Springs, Texas, where I first encountered them. They were originally from a rural area near the Appalachian Mt. range in the western part of North Carolina. The Yontrys continue to practice a unique set of beliefs cultivated in the nearby mountains. These beliefs are a mixture of European traditions and Native American practices derived from the Cherokee, Catawba Indians, and Germanic settlers who were living in the area in the mid 1800's. Though the Yontry's Protestant belief system contains the framework for their ideas, their cultural roots are deeply woven with a sense of superstition and unique practices. These practices are comprised of healing rituals, telepathic transference referred to as meering, and mawing, which is a form of telepathy that uses sound waves and vibrations to aid in transmission. During these rituals specific organic objects are used as conduit devices, believed to be essential for the transmission of information between individuals in various locations, both present and past. This information is referred to as whum, and is seen as the essential element in communication and the goal of all mawing and meering ceremonies. One of my goals in working with this project is that through the gathering of images that demonstrate these practices, consisting of rituals, ceremonies, and family histories, that somehow their story can be preserved. I believe that the underlying significance of a people group so steeped in traditions and unique beliefs reveals the need to examine the transmission of our cultural patterns and construction of our histories and belief systems.