Hearts beat­ing in the rock The Zuni Show


Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

More than one hun­dred Zuni artists con­verge on the Scot­tish Rite Cen­ter on Satur­day, Aug. 20, and Sun­day, Aug. 21, for a show and sale of pot­tery, jew­elry, paint­ings, and carved fetishes in rock, shell, and antler. The Zuni Show, spon­sored by the non­profit Keshi Foun­da­tion, was or­ga­nized to in­crease the pub­lic’s ex­po­sure to Zuni art­work. There is no ad­mis­sion charge, and the artists get 100 per­cent of the pro­ceeds from the sales. “Last year we had eight shows for dif­fer­ent artists,” said Bron­wyn Fox, owner of the Santa Fe busi­ness Keshi, who spent sev­eral for­ma­tive years liv­ing at Zuni. “We thought we could do that in a big show. This will be the ven­dors from Zuni Pue­blo sell­ing di­rectly to the pub­lic in the Hall of Honor at the Scot­tish Rite. I think it will be the most Zuni artists ever as­sem­bled in one venue.”

Keshi was founded in 1981 as a co­op­er­a­tive by Zuni artists and sev­eral teach­ers (both Zuni and nonNa­tive) who wanted to en­sure that the artists re­ceived fair re­mu­ner­a­tion for their work. Sev­eral years later, it be­came a reg­u­lar busi­ness, buy­ing the work out­right from the artists. For 22 years, Keshi was lo­cated at the Santa Fe Vil­lage shopping com­plex on Don Gas­par Av­enue; in 2003 it moved next door to 227 Don Gas­par. Fox said half of the Zuni Show ven­dors will be artists who have never done a show be­fore.

“That’s true,” said her mother, Robin Dun­lap, the show or­ga­nizer. “And some oth­ers are com­ing to show loy­alty to their peo­ple. Ex­am­ples are Jeff Shetima, Les Nam­ingha (Zu­niTewa-Hopi) and Gomeo Bo­belu; they have all done very well at In­dian Mar­ket.” Dun­lap lived in Zuni Pue­blo as a sixth-grade teacher and was one of the found­ing mem­bers of the co­op­er­a­tive.

The big show in­cludes per­for­mances by olla maid­ens, women who dance with pots bal­anced on their heads, and by Zuni groups per­form­ing the deer dance, rain­bow dance, ea­gle dance, and other dances in the court­yard. Vis­i­tors will see and hear words and phrases in the Zuni lan­guage. “It’s a beau­ti­ful lan­guage,” Dun­lap said. “What’s in­ter­est­ing at Zuni is that many young peo­ple still speak the lan­guage, what they call Shiwi’ma, so it’s not very en­dan­gered. Zuni is the largest pue­blo — it’s the size of Rhode Is­land — and I think their ge­o­graph­i­cal iso­la­tion has worked to their ben­e­fit in keep­ing cul­ture.”

The Zuni an­i­mal carv­ings known as fetishes are the tribe’s best-known art­works, but their func­tion is of­ten mis­un­der­stood. They are not “magic,” Dun­lap stressed. “The Smith­so­nian came to Zuni, and they saw how the peo­ple were us­ing fetishes. They saw that they were not wor­ship­ping them and didn’t even think they were good luck. What they were do­ing was car­ry­ing an an­i­mal that did the thing well that they wanted to do well. It’s like a tool. If you are go­ing deer hunt­ing, what an­i­mal is go­ing to be the best hunter of the deer? The cougar. So to this day they carry a moun­tain lion with them, and when they honor moun­tain lion’s abil­ity to hunt the deer, they’re re­mem­ber­ing to fo­cus on their abil­ity to hunt the deer. Be­cause what they say is, if Great Spirit made moun­tain lion and Great Spirit made me, we’re con­nected, and it’s just about hon­or­ing that con­nec­tion.”

A fetish is an ob­ject that has no in­trin­sic power. Ac­cord­ing to the Zuni con­cep­tion, the spirit of the fetish comes from the spirit of the an­i­mal, the spirit of the stone, the spirit of the carver, and the spirit of the pos­ses­sor. “There’s no magic. You have to do the work,” Dun­lap said. “The story of the fetish comes from the emer­gence myth. The peo­ple came from Mother Earth, and the an­i­mals were al­ready here. The peo­ple started emerg­ing from the sipapu [in Pue­blo cos­mol­ogy, the place of emer­gence from the Earth], and the an­i­mals were cre­at­ing havoc on them: They were eat­ing them. So the an­ces­tors said their prayers to Great Spirit, and Great Spirit agreed to freeze the an­i­mals in stone for a cer­tain pe­riod of time, but it kept their hearts beat­ing in the rock. Those were the orig­i­nal fetishes.”

Zuni ef­fi­gies most of­ten por­tray an­i­mals, but the hu­man be­ing is also rep­re­sented. Dun­lap said three stages of woman show up in art­works. If the fig­ure has whorls of hair on the sides of her head, she

has not had a baby. The sec­ond stage is mother and is usu­ally rep­re­sented with a baby. The third is the grand­mother, the wise elder. The maiden and mother’s bod­ies are carved to look like ears of corn (with all the ker­nels ex­posed, some­times rep­re­sented sym­bol­i­cally with crosshatch­ing), whereas the out­line of the grand­mother’s body is carved to look like lay­ers of shawl ma­te­rial.

“Faye Quan­delacy was at the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Arts in the 1970s and was mak­ing great big sculp­tures of maid­ens, moth­ers, and grand­moth­ers, and then she started do­ing them as fetishes. Faye will not be at our show, but we have five other Quan­dela­cys com­ing. The Quan­delacy fam­ily has not been at In­dian Mar­ket for years, and peo­ple are go­ing to flip out.”

Dun­lap dis­cussed petit-point jew­elry, in which each stone is in its own sil­ver bezel. “They cut each lit­tle slit of sil­ver — the Zu­nis do it all by hand; they don’t cast their sil­ver — and make tiny teeth with a small saw. Then they shape the stone and sol­der it in. Jesse John­son, who will be at the Zuni Show, does beau­ti­ful petit point. He’s young, and un­for­tu­nately this art form is dy­ing out. I can lit­er­ally look at the shape of the stone and tell you which fam­ily is do­ing it. There are less than 20 now. The Zu­nis are also known for gor­geous in­lay, but no mat­ter what it is, it’s go­ing to be tiny pieces shaped metic­u­lously and per­fectly.”

Tra­di­tional forms and de­signs are im­por­tant to Gomeo Bo­belu, but the Zuni artist is known for “tweak­ing them a lit­tle bit,” as Dun­lap put it. A sil­ver­smith for more than 15 years, Bo­belu is also a painter and pho­tog­ra­pher and is one of the par­tic­i­pat­ing artists and pro­duc­ers of the 2016 film Veiled Light­ning:

A Na­tive R/evo­lu­tion­ary, about the Pue­blo Re­volt that was fo­mented in 1680 by Po-Pay of Ohkay Owingeh. Bo­belu told Pasatiempo that he re­lates to tra­di­tional Zuni art­works, es­pe­cially the master jew­el­ers who were fos­tered by C.G. Wal­lace, a trad­ing post owner at Zuni from 1918 to 1970. But Bo­belu’s jew­elry def­i­nitely comes from a cre­ative mind.

“In my evo­lu­tion of my work, I had to take a good look at my­self,” he said. “As a Zuni artist, I al­ways take pride be­cause I get a lot of en­ergy from the sa­cred dances and the cer­e­monies. I am born of the Bad­ger Clan and Child of the Corn Clan. Most of my de­signs look like a katsina face, but I kind of didn’t want to ex­ploit our Zuni cul­ture — the Zuni-mask cul­ture, be­cause that has su­per­nat­u­ral en­ergy, and I don’t re­ally like to man­i­fest that, so I call mine a spirit face.”

His 2013 Hopi maiden pin has a face of abalone and jet, hair (in­clud­ing whorls) carved in jet, and neck­laces of sil­ver, co­ral, turquoise, and pearl. The piece was made in trib­ute to an aunt who died. “And then I have a male ver­sion that paid trib­ute to my lit­tle brother, who com­mit­ted a mur­der-sui­cide. I also just lost my fa­ther in February,” Bo­belu said. “With my jew­elry I heal my­self from such tragedy and trauma so that I’m able to per­se­vere.” His line of Zuni fig­urines is a trib­ute to the vic­tims and sur­vivors of sui­cide and do­mes­tic abuse on In­dian reser­va­tions. He’s also an ad­vo­cate for the LGBT com­mu­nity. “We don’t have a gay-straight al­liance in Zuni. It has taken me a long time to be com­fort­able in my skin, be­cause not

every­body likes me, so I’ve taken a dif­fer­ent holis­tic ap­proach to not be an­gry and hate­ful. With all of this death, I’ve had to step up to the plate, be­cause I have four gen­er­a­tions be­hind me, and I have two daugh­ters.

“When I tell peo­ple that I’m an In­dian, they ask me what tribe I am, and when I say Zuni, their whole face lights up be­cause they had a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence in the pue­blo and the art, be­cause we’ve al­ways been a tourist com­mu­nity. In my work I ask my­self, I won­der if Jimi Hen­drix would wear this? I won­der if Jackie Onas­sis would wear this? And it’s my drive that when my pieces get out into the uni­verse they are hope­fully able to heal oth­ers.”

The artist is striv­ing for his art to “heal me enough to ad­vo­cate for other peo­ple,” and this mo­tive ex­tends to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of en­mi­ties that some­times ex­ist in the lo­cal art world, rep­re­sented by the South­west­ern As­so­ci­a­tion for In­dian Arts, the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Arts, and the Indige­nous Fine Art Move­ment. A re­cent post on Bo­belu’s Face­book page reads “Unidos ... SWAIA + IAIA + IFAM + all tribes = we heal the world through many art forms.”

Clau­dia Peina: Corn Grinder; top, San­dra Quan­delacy: Corn Maiden with Stripes; right, Ste­wart Quan­delacy: Medicine Bear

A fetish is an ob­ject that has no in­trin­sic power. Ac­cord­ing to the Zuni con­cep­tion, the spirit of the fetish comes from the spirit of the an­i­mal, the spirit of the stone, the spirit of the carver, and the spirit of the pos­ses­sor.

Gomeo Bo­belu (Zuni): Drag­on­fly pen­dant; right, brooch; pho­tos Pe­ter Kahn


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