Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where to see kachinas locally

Synchronicity! I had not been to the library for more than a month; today, an errand to the downtown post office gave me an opportunity to drop by and see the progress on the new mural. Once in the building, I looked for the kachinas in their usual, impossible-to-photograph location on the main floor. Not there.

Turned out that the library's collection had been moved to the special display windows at the rear of the building for the next couple of weeks, with good intel about each of the dolls, which, BTW, date from the 60s. Donated to the library by a local collector in the 90s. Best hie yourself over there to get a really good look for a change.

Here are two spirits that are immediately recognizable, even by uninformed folk such as I: mudface (above) and a clown (below). The black and white striped guys are always clowns, as I understand these things. You'll find them eating watermelon, doing zany things (and, on one occasion in the back room of a long-gone shop, engaging in very x-rated play.)

A trip to Medwise for an xray or MRI is what it takes to see this group (above and next two pictures below). A very different interpretation from the library's set, wouldn't you say?

These uniquely Hopi artworks are called "dolls," but that is a bit of a misnomer. Kachinas (or katsinas) are actually stylized religious icons, meticulously carved from cottonwood root and painted to represent figures from Hopi mythology. For generations, these figures have been used to teach children about their religion; no Hopi child has ever teethed on a katsina or taken one to bed, and given their price, I doubt any non-Hopi child has either. So notes the katchina page of the Native Languages of the Americas web site.

The picture above and two below are from a small collection that you'll probably never see. They are at the home of my Sson and family, purchased over the years from one Flagstaff dealer. Note the clown catching a chicken -- as well as the elegant eagle kachina below.

As the All Tribes web site explains it, Kachinas are holy spirits that live upon the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona and other sacred mountains in the Southwest. During the period beginning with the Winter Solstice and extending to about mid-July, masked dancers initiated into the various clans of the Hopi Pueblos impersonate these spirits. Men portray both the male and female spirits and when an initiate wears the mask of his Kachina, he becomes that spirit personified. During the open dances, the Kachinas dance in the plaza or from Kiva to Kiva distributing the Kachina dolls, toy bows, rattles, fruit and sweets to the children between dances.

The Gurley Street Bank of America is an excellent public place to view another display of outstanding kachinas.

There may be over two hundred fifty Katsinas known to the Hopi Indians of Arizona, they appear on the Hopi Mesa’s on seasonal basis, starting from December through July. On Third Mesa, Qoqole’s [the story teller] first arrives in December to "open" up the kivas for more Katsinas to come, they bring with them their comical behavior and crops from the past harvest. Soon after, night dances are followed, starting from January through March. Katsina day dances are held from March through July, ending with the Home dance. The Katsinas are then returned back to their homes, at the San Francisco Peaks, Kisiau and Waynemai, according to Hopi Market, a sales agency located on the reservation.

Yet another place around town where you might occasionally find the dolls is Batterman's, the big auction/consignment house on Gurley.

Ogg's Hogan, a dealer in Indian arts and crafts on Cortez, stocks contemporary kachinas (above). However, most interesting are the historic dolls on display (below).

Authenticity Note: It's quite certain that the library kachinas and those collected by my Sson are all made by Hopi artists; I don't know about the others I've shown here. Bear in mind that it is a sufficiently popular art form that similar dolls are made by Navajo, Mexican and other artists to meet the demand. In fact, at the All Tribes web site, there were 17 pages of kachinas for sale ... but only 3 pages of dolls made by Hopi; you can be sure that this difference was reflected in the pricing, too!


worldphotos4 said...

Very educational. Thanks. And thanks for the superb pictures.

TomboCheck said...

Absolutely awesome post!

Granny J said...

steve -- it's one I've been wanting to do for a long, long time. finally, with the library kachinas in a more photographable location, I was able to get the last of the pictures I wanted.

tombo -- it would be a lot more awesome if 1) I could get down to the Heard in Phx & 2) they allowed photography. I'd love to see the Barry Goldwater collection.

Catalyst said...

I was about to mention the Goldwater collection at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Truly a huge and authentic collection.

meggie said...

A fascinating post! Thankyou.

Granny J said...

catalyst -- not only that, but Goldwater's kachinas are much older and many precede the development of distinctive artistic styles in the individualistic Western tradition that dominate many modern collections.

meggie -- Arizona offers a wide variety of Indian arts and crafts well worth viewing, admiring and enjoying.

sheoflittlebrain said...

I love this post,
GJ! Well Done:)

Granny J said...

brain -- there is one place I didn't check out -- Ernie's wonderful Hotel California Trading Post in the St. Michael alley. If he had anything, it would be authentic, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever look at silvertribe.com they have a great selection of Hopi Kachinas and the prices are unbelievable.

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