Native American Indian, Southwest, Hopi or Navajo, ca. 1950s CE. A hand-carved and hand-painted wooden katsina/kachina with bird feathers atop the head and chocolate brown hairs, likely horse hair, attached below the neck that run over the torso. The visage is finely delineated with stylized eyes, tears, and symbolic motifs in hues of sky blue, cornflower blue, yellow, red, and white. To either side are appliques with red "X" motifs. Kachina figures are traditionally created as gifts for children representing kachina dancers and the supernatural katsinam beings they embody. Size: 5.75" W x 9.5" H (14.6 cm x 24.1 cm)
Plaza Dances may be either Mixed Katsina Dances (Soyohim) in which dancers representing all the different types of katsinas attend, or a dance that includes only katsinas of the same type. Regardless, in addition to bringing about rain and fertility, all of the katsinas have a distinct purpose. Dances may be performed to commemorate a special event such as recovery from an illness, the welcomed return of a son from the army, or a birthday. Nevertheless, these dances maintain a religion quality for the Hopis.
The Katsinam, supernatural beings who live in the high mountains of the San Francisco Peaks above traditional Hopi territory, speak to the Hopi through costumed dance and song. These dancers emerge from the round ceremonial kivas that are at the center of their communities, singly or in groups, and dance to the music of drums, rattles, and song. In imitation and representation of them are Katsina figures (katsina dolls, katsin-tihu), made of cottonwood root. Cottonwood is culturally symbolic because the cottonwood tree, once abundant in traditional Hopi lands, grows where water flows - thus, looking across a landscape, lines of cottonwood trees denote a water source in the desert. After carving, the figures are painted all over with whitewash, made from kaolin clay, and then painted in brilliant colors. Originally these were done using yucca brushes. Many of them are then decorated with other materials, like feathers, cloth, or fur. Katsina dolls are often given objects to hold which indicate their roles.
Provenance: private Glorieta, New Mexico, USA collection
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Losses to feathers with bending and shedding/loosening from the top. Chipping and fading of pigments. Nice preservation of hair. Cord on verso for suspension.