Annual Museum of Northern Arizona Navajo Fest celebrates Diné culture and way of life
The 64th Annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture took place Aug. 3-4 at the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA). The event focused on the sustainability of land and language and the Diné way of life.
The Navajo word Diné, means "the People" or "children of the Holy People."
More than 80 Navajo artists, musicians, dancers and cultural experts were on hand to share their traditions through artistic expression. Silversmiths, jewelers, painters, weavers, folk carvers and multi-generational families described their work and their customs in every available space at the museum.
Visitors experienced loom weaving demonstratons, sand painting in action, Churro sheep, pottery demonstrations, Hoop dancing, the pageantry of Navajo social dances and musical performances.
The festival supports what the Navajo call "hozho" - living a happy and wise long life, in balance and harmony with the earth and the sky.
"We help provide a look into the way the Navajo see the world," said Robert Breunig, director of the museum. "We explore the customs and practices families are using to keep traditions strong.
The Heritage Insights Tent was full all weekend while visitors watched traditional dances with ceremonial baskets, and comedy and musical performances.
A huge hit was the musical performance by music group Sihasin. The brother and sister duo's father, Jonathan Benally, joined Jeneda and Clayson Benally for a performance on Saturday.
Singer Radmilla Cody, along with Darrin Yazzie, sang a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner in Navajo for the crowd. She dedicated her performance to veterans in the crowd and those still fighting for our freedom.
Harry Benally, from Sheepspring, N.M., explained how he carves "traditionally alive" pieces. He displayed a picture of his mother and showed how he translated that picture into the carving, with jewelry attached.
Virgil J. Nez from Pinon, Ariz. said he is the aspen "barkman." He explained how he sees images in aspen bark and then enhances that image with color. He uses the features of the bark as eyes or faces or part of a house. He said that the process can be fast if he sees the image right away or longer if he doesn't see anything and needs to put the piece aside to try again later.
Vivian Descheny and her son Darvin Descheny, from Flagstaff, Ariz., wove at their looms during the festival. Vivian Descheny said that there are not many male weavers and said she was extremely proud of her son Darvin who was at the festival working on his own piece.