FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Some of the finest Native fine art in the Southwest, as well as philosophy, beliefs, and values of the A:shiwi people will be explored at the Museum of Northern Arizona's (MNA) 21st Annual Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. New insightful talks, archival films, artists, dancers, and music will round out this year's festival presentations, produced in partnership with the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center (AAMHC) in Zuni, N.M.
An opening ceremony with the Zuni Pueblo Band will take place at 9 a.m. on both days. Zuni and MNA officials will raise the Zuni flag next to the U.S. and MNA flags, and they will remain together throughout the weekend.
"Each year this festival provides a forum for people of all backgrounds to learn, and perhaps take home, a piece of Zuni art and an enhanced understanding of their own world, as it has been shaped by the Zuni people," said AAMHC Director Jim Enote. "And having the exhibit A:shiwi A:wan Ulohnanne - The Zuni World at MNA at the same time as the festival will give visitors an even larger experience of the Zunis."
A:shiwi A:wan Ulohnann - The Zuni World, also produced in partnership with the AAMHC and funded by a grant from the Christensen Fund, presents thirty map art paintings that Zuni artists have created to represent important places in their world. "This art holds something that transcends Western modernism and speaks to our own continuous search for the essence of Zuni," added Enote.
"'Journey to the Center Place,' the theme of this year's festival, talks about the ancient migration of the Zuni people from their place of origin in the Grand Canyon to Zuni Pueblo, and their cultural relationship to sacred sites throughout the Colorado Plateau. And it also talks about their effort as a people to live in a center place of Zuni beliefs and values," said Robert Breunig, MNA director. "They are often considered among the most traditional of the Southwestern Pueblo people, having managed to preserve their core beliefs and identity, while integrating useful parts of the modern world." Four cultural programs will be given by the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center staff. These presentations are funded in part by the Arizona Humanities Council.
Discussion of the A:shiwi Map Art Project's efforts, using artistic interpretation to connect to cultural landscapes and sacred places, will be led by AAMHC Director Jim Enote. A number of the 16 artists whose work is included in the A:shiwi A:wan Ulohnanne - The Zuni World exhibit will talk about their experiences visiting and interpreting sacred sites, and the power of indigenous mapping to create art that evokes memories and reactions.
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Zuni artist, scholar, and cultural advisor Octavious Seowtewa will talk about the Zuni place of origin, Chimik'yana'kya dey'a or Ribbon Falls, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Seowtewa has traveled down the Colorado River 14 times to Ribbon Falls and other sacred sites in the canyon. He will share his experiences of Grand Canyon and create an opportunity for visitors to contrast their own experiences in this discussion of identity and place.
Sixty miles south of Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico lies Salt Lake, home of the Zuni's Salt Mother or Salt Woman, a deity the Zuni's call Ma'l Oyattsik'i. When water evaporates in the summer, it leaves a layer of salt on this lake bottom, which is then available for harvesting. Sacred trails, like umbilical cords, tie the lake to the Zuni villages and to other sacred sites around the area. Zuni men follow these trails to gather salt, which embodies the flesh of Salt Mother, herself. Other pueblos, including the Hopi, Acoma, Apache, Navajo, and Laguna use the salt for their ceremonies. AAMHC Director Jim Enote will present this topic.
For the last three years, AAMHC Museum Educator Curtis Quam has presented this story to a packed room of visitors. Again this year, Quam will talk about his people's emergence, their migration to Halona:wa, or present day Zuni, and the importance of language and cultural place-names. This history will give non-Zuni visitors a context for all that they will be learning about Zuni at the festival.
The AAMHC Photo and Motion Picture Archive contains approximately 4,500 still photos taken from the late 1800s to the present. The photographs include Smithsonian photos, photos donated by community members, photos of tribal programs, photos taken at Zuni schools, Indian Health Service photos, and Bureau of Indian Affairs project photos. A collection of 15 motion picture films was also made between 1923 to the present. A sampling of films and photos from the archive will be shown at the festival.
The Nawetsa Family Dancers bring the pageantry of traditional Zuni social dancing, with colorful headdresses, beaded and fringed arm bands, traditional woven outfits, and turquoise jewelry adding to their performances of dances symbolizing the dreams, visions, and beliefs of the A:shiwi. The Eagle Dance honors the majestic bird for all it sacrifices to the Zuni people; feathers of the eagle are used in prayer. The White Buffalo Dance represents the rain clouds of summertime and prayers for moisture.
The Olla Pottery Maidens, decorated with turquoise jewelry and traditional woven outfits, dance while carefully balancing water pots on their heads. The pots are indented on the bottom for this purpose and in the past, these same pots were used for carrying food and water.
The Zuni Pueblo Band is one of the few remaining American Indian community bands in the U.S. today. They proudly wear the traditional Pueblo style of dress, with a red woven sash belt around the waist, a handmade concho belt, exquisite Zuni jewelry, and red leather moccasins. The men wear bowguards on their arms and a traditional white headscarf across their foreheads. The women tie their hair in the back with a small red sash. Membership in the band is open to all Zunis, regardless of age or experience. In recent years, the band has had members from eight to 80 years old and it is common to see three or four generations of families participating in the band at any given time. The Zuni Pueblo Band plays marches by John Phillip Sousa, K. L. King, Roland Seitz, and other well-known composers for parades and concerts.
Zuni artists are known for some of the most sought after Native works of art. Through their distinctive sense of color and patterns, intricately crafted designs, and traditional symbols, they represent an ancient people. Artist demonstrators will create artwork and talk with visitors about materials and designs they use.
Artists include Aric Chopito - weaving demonstrator; Rayland and Patty Edaakie - silver inlay jewelry demonstrators; Lorandina Sheshe - traditional fetish carving demonstrator; Todd Westika - contemporary fetish carving demonstrator; James Cheama - fetish carving and inlay jewelry; Colin Coonsis - inlay jewelry; Kenneth Epaloose - pottery; Tony and Ola Eriacho - inlay jewelry; Rolanda Haloo - jewelry;
Yolanda Laate - jewelry; Matthew Neha - fine art; Claudia Peina - fetish carving; Octavious and Irma Seowtewa - needlepoint jewelry; Margia Simplicio - folk art; Noreen Simplicio - pottery; and, Mike Yatsayte - fetish carving.
Zuni Festival's Heritage Insight presentations were made possible through a grant from the Arizona Humanities Council. Additional supporters of this year's Heritage Program festivals included the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Flagstaff Cultural Partners, the city of Flagstaff/BBB revenues, and Coconino County. Main Street Catering, Salsa Brava, Simply Delicious, and Thornager's Catering support the festival's members' previews.
About the Zuni People
The spiritual and ancestral landscape of the A:shiwi includes the San Francisco Peaks or Sunha:kwin K'yaba:chu Yalanne in the west, Mesa Verde in the north, Sandia Mountains in the east, the Salt and Gila River Basins to the south, and of course, the Grand Canyon, the Zuni place of origin.
Zunis believe they emerged from Mother Earth within the Grand Canyon and migrated across the Colorado Plateau to Halona Idiwana'a or the Middle Place of the World, home of the Zuni today. Their broad, scenic valley with red mesas and an expansive blue sky is about 150 miles west of Albuquerque at an historic crossroads of travel and trade in northwestern New Mexico. Zuni Pueblo is the largest of nineteen New Mexican pueblos, with eleven thousand members spread out over 600 square miles. The fact that the A:shiwi language bears no similarity to any other known language is indicative of their isolation. Eighty percent of Zuni families are involved in making fine arts, home-based work that makes it possible for Zunis to remain in their community.
A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center
Established by a small group of Zuni tribal members in 1992, the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center is dedicated to serving the Zuni community with programs and exhibits that reflect on their past, and are relevant to their present and future. This museum emphasizes A:shiwi ways of knowing, while also exploring modern and mainstream concepts of knowledge. AAMHC teaches Zuni youth traditional life skills and how to apply them to modern circumstances. Old films, photo archives, and a collection of digitized oral history interviews are popular with many Zunis. Art is a fundamental part of the culture. With collections of contemporary and prehistoric Zuni art, and Zuni school art exhibitions, AAMHC provides a venue and forum for local artists to study and reflect on the possibilities of art in their community. Visit ashiwi-museum.org for more information or call (505) 782-4403.
About the MNA
Now celebrating its 83rd year, the MNA has a long and illustrious history and evokes the very spirit of the Colorado Plateau. It serves as the gateway to understanding this region, with nine exhibit galleries revealing Native cultures, artistic traditions, and natural sciences. MNA's four Heritage Program festivals highlight the region's cultures and encourage communication and the exchange of ideas between visitors, educators, and artists. More information about MNA is at musnaz.org. Information is also available by phone at (928) 774-5213.