Hopi culture shines in Katsinam

Larry Melendez of the Butterfly/Badger clan was one of 16 Katsinam doll carvers whose work was included in the exhibition, “Katsinam: A Hopi Living Tradition” at the University of La Verne College of Law in Ontario, California. Melendez, who was inspired by the Hopi nation and Mexican traditions, uses cottonwood roots and carves the dolls with a knife and rasp and colors them with mineral paints. One of Melendez’s works on display is the Mu-Mu (Bumble Bee), which is used during mixed dances, and the Water Serpent Ceremony. The Mu-Mu’s headpiece is crowned with a cluster of stalks, which can have flowers, fruit, or strands of corn stalks presented on top. Mu-Mu brings the gift of fertility to plants. The Katsinam exhibit will remain open until December 10. photo by/ Michael Saakyan
Larry Melendez of the Butterfly/Badger clan was one of 16 Katsinam doll carvers whose work was included in the exhibition, “Katsinam: A Hopi Living Tradition” at the University of La Verne College of Law in Ontario, California. Melendez, who was inspired by the Hopi nation and Mexican traditions, uses cottonwood roots and carves the dolls with a knife and rasp and colors them with mineral paints. One of Melendez’s works on display is the Mu-Mu (Bumble Bee), which is used during mixed dances, and the Water Serpent Ceremony. The Mu-Mu’s headpiece is crowned with a cluster of stalks, which can have flowers, fruit, or strands of corn stalks presented on top. Mu-Mu brings the gift of fertility to plants. The Katsinam exhibit will remain open until December 10. / photo by Michael Saakyan

Jolene Nacapuy
Sports Editor

“The Katsinam: A Hopi Living Tradition” has culturally taken over an exhibit at the College of Law, making a grand opening on Sept. 4.

Artists include Randy Brokeshoulder, Manuel Chavar­ria, Glen Fred, Delwyn Harvey, Skipton Jackson, Clay Kania­tobe, Fred Kooyauaquaptewa, Ramson Lomatewama, Frances Quotskyuyva, Manfred Susun­kewa, Hunter Tso, Paul Tso and Elmer Yungotsuna.

The Hopi nation is approximately 2,500 square miles in northeastern Arizona with 12 different villages in four regions: First Mesa, Second Mesa, Third Mesa and Moencopi.

“This is a unique culture to me because in a way, it highlights the vision at the law school and university to showcase diversity,” said visiting Assistant Professor of Law Placido Gomez.

“It is good to promote the different cultures and appreciate the different worlds out there,” he said.

Gomez has been planning this exhibition since spring and was very enthusiastic to showcase it.

“It is a very traditional culture, having a spiritual basis,” Gomez said.

“To share with us their part of the world is amazing and seeing all the traditional dolls shows a different outlook on perspectives,” he said.

Gilbert Holmes, dean of the University of La Verne College of Law, was particularly excited when Gomez brought up the idea.

“It’s the opportunity to connect with a different part of the community and the beauty of the world,” Holmes said.

“I love the sense of details and the cultural aspect of the art,” he said.

Curator Rogelio Briones went to talk to the different artists to help participate in this exhibit and helped arrange the artwork and loved the idea of having the Hopi tradition showcased.

“Art is beautiful for me and the Hopi is different,” Briones said.

The Hopi has carved Katsina for hundreds of years and uses them in ceremonies, dances, gifts.

“The Katsina has a spiritual attachment to earth deeper than just a mere piece of artwork,” Briones said.

“It is more meaningful and not much people on this side of the country know about this so it’s good to be educated and understand the meaning culturally.”

Katsina dolls are carved from cottonwood root, traditionally with a knife and rasp. Each doll is modified and follows traditional standards.

“I’ve been a Katsina carver for over 20 years,” said Katsina carver artist Elmer Yungotsuna. “It is part of my culture and a very traditional piece of art work.”

Yungotsuna has won multiple first and second place awards for his many Katsina carvings. Each piece created by Yungotsuna takes a different amount of time depending on the type of details the piece needs.

“The average time to complete a simple piece such as a corn doll takes about two days,” Yungotsuna said.

“But if it has more specific details such as arms and legs, it could take about months.”
Katsina dolls represent supernatural beings, Katsinam.

The dolls are gifts to girls from the Katsinas. It is like a protector and comes to bless homes, lives and act as a mediator.

They take the job of angels and there are different types of Katsina dolls that represent different things.

Some represent connections to the earth, mother nature, a person, the universe, discipline, healing and messengers, for example.

The Eototo was one of the Katsinam presented at the exhibit.

The Eototo appears each year and is the spiritual counterpart of the Village Chief.
He appears at all major ceremonies and knows everyone.

Manuel Chavarria, who is of Hopi descent, was one of the artists present at the exhibit.

“The Hopi tribe has been living in the northeastern part of Arizona for about 2,000 years and has been practicing religion there since then,” Chavarria said.

Chavarria started carving at the age of 10 and learned the tradition from his grandfather Fred Denet.

“Even though the designs that are made are a set of traditions passed down and have a standard, there is always room for creativity,” Chavarria said.

“I like to show people about the culture and add my own personality to it to represent myself in a way,” he said.

Chavarria has traveled to Japan exhibiting 100 Katsina’s in 2006 and has been an exhibitor at Santa Fe Indian Market for 12 years.

He also has received an award for Best of Show Hopi Show at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff Arizona.

Holmes’ favorite piece of artwork is the Buffalo: Boy and Girl made by Chavarria.

It will run until Dec. 10 at the College of Law Art Gallery in the University of La Verne College of Law.

Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at jolene.nacapuy@laverne.edu.

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