Leah Mata is a member of the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini (the people of tiłhini) Northern Chumash Tribe, located on the Central California Coast. Leah works as a contemporary artist creating through traditional practices, focused on living forms of regalia and jewelry while building ongoing traditions in California Indian arts. Her work as yak tityu and an artist is grounded in an understanding of the past that is interdependent with the future.
Mata has earned top honors such as the Autry Indian Market 2012 - Best in Diverse Cultural Arts, Heard Museum Fair 2013, 2016 - First Place, 2018 Best of Clasification in Personal Attire. Santa Fe Indian Market 2018 Personal Attire- Secod Place. In 2011, Leah was awarded the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, and was selected as a Master Artist recipient for Alliance of California Traditional Arts (ACTA) in 2013. Most recently Mata is the 2020 Barbra Dobkin Fellow at the School of Advanced Research. Mata’s education, which includes a B.A. in Anthropology and a M.A. in Cultural Sustainability, has afforded her access to various collections and archives, furthering understanding of the technical and material expertise of yak tityu tityu (The People) and resisting the hindered access for community members whose relatives’ works are held in academic collections.
Unlike other mediums, most of the materials needed to create traditional Northern Chumash material culture are site-specific and can require years of planning to complete each piece. The importance of gathering materials seasonally and with respect for the limits of each environment, even before they can be processed and then used, is a practice she engages in collaboration with homeland and her family. Leah is committed to environmental issues that directly impact the ability to gather materials needed to sustain her traditional arts. Finding ways to assure each generation can sustain these art forms is an integral part of Mata’s process, which allows her the ability to incorporate her artistic practice with her intention as an educator, researcher, and community member.