“In working with kids, I soften the edges for them—sharing my gift and what matters to me is the truth, and coming to terms with it. I’ve come to a place of peace, even though I can never clear my psyche. But we are able to transcend it if we so choose, and art is a wonderful way to vent, and having art in kids’ lives, getting to know, appreciate and love the sacredness of art—that can make a difference.”
From his art, Begay has come to live and create on his own terms.
“Yes, hope is coming,” Begay said with a smile.
Another, younger artist is Kendrick Benally, whose work has impressed many visitors to the Navajo Marketplace over the past few years. This young Navajo was excited to be able to promote a bilingual children’s book released by Salina Bookshelf of Flagstaff on December 29. Benally produced 14 paintings to illustrate Zinnia: How the Corn was Saved, written by Patricia Hruby Powell.
“Another artist was supposed to work on this project, but because of personal health concerns, couldn’t continue the work,” Benally said. “I was invited to complete the project, which was really limited on time.”
Benally said that his first illustration project was a great experience for him—and because Spider Woman has been a subject of many previous paintings, this was a natural gig.
“The book has a boy going away, his object being to meet Spider Woman in order to address drought issues,” Benally said. This boy is chosen to make this journey, on which he meets three birds, a snake, a lizard and a Gila monster. At the end, he meets Spider Woman, who gives him help in the form of little yellow flowers that the people will sprinkle between the corn so it will flourish.”
Benally, who lives at the south rim of the Grand Canyon—the realm of Spider Woman in the book—has taken many journeys into the canyon, and is familiar with all of the creatures living there.
“This is my backyard,” Benally said.
The young artist said that this experience has opened new doors for him, and that Powell has asked him to illustrate a new story about how Frog calls the rain. Other authors who are interested in having Benally illustrate their stories have also approached him.
Of the Navajo Marketplace, Benally said that he was “excited to be back this year. It’s always nice to be here.”
In the fiber category, several Navajo weavers were on hand to display and demonstrate their work. This included the Bighorse family—Mabel and her daughters Rose and Katherine.
Her mother, Mabel, now 74, has been weaving since she was eight years old, Rose Bighorse said.
And though her lifestyle has changed with the time, Mabel’s devotion to weaving has remained strong.
“She specializes in the Rain Storm pattern,” Rose Bighorse said. “No one does it quite the same as she does, and now she is passing her style down through my sister and myself.”
Rose’s interest in weaving did not develop in early childhood, like her mother’s.