Museum of Northern Arizona's Zuni festival to feature cross-cultural collaboration

25th annual event takes place May 23-24, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Rainbird Olla, the 2014 Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture Best in Show piece by Tim Edaakie and Bobby Silas. Submitted photo

Rainbird Olla, the 2014 Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture Best in Show piece by Tim Edaakie and Bobby Silas. Submitted photo

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - People can share in language, life ways and traditions of more than 50 Zuni artists at the 25th annual Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture May 23-24 from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. at the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA), 3101 N. Fort Valley Road in Flagstaff.

Best in Show winners for pottery from 2014 Tim Edaakie (Zuni) and Bobby Silas (Hopi) will have work at the show. Edaakie is the grandson of the late Dennis Edaakie and grandmother Nancy Edaakie, who were bird inlay jewelers. He is a member of the Frog clan from Zuni, New Mexico. Silas is from Hopi, Third Mesa Bacavi Village and is a member of the Coyote clan.

The two began collaborating about seven years ago when they were hiking around Zuni together. There they found historic and prehistoric sites with pottery sherds dating back to the Basketmaker period. Those discoveries led the two men to wonder about how that pottery was made, how the people got their clay, and how they glazed their pots.

Silas already knew how to make Hopi pottery. He was taught by his godfather. Edaakie, like his grandparents, was a silversmith, a jeweler. He was taught silversmithing by his uncles and inlay and silversmithing by his grandfather, Derrick, and inlay from his grandmother, Nancy.

"It's a big change to do pottery," Edaakie said, adding that he and Silas wanted to do natural work, with pigments that came from the land, paint that

is mixed from natural ingredients. The elements in their work come from both Hopi and Zuni.

An ethnological film from Zuni from the early 1900s showing an older lady making pottery inspired the two men even more. Silas studied everything about how the woman made the pots from beginning to end.

Silas spent a month creating the Best in Show piece for the Zuni Fest last year. It was the largest piece he had completed. It took Edaakie about two weeks to paint it.

He said they originally had been skeptical about going to the show because they didn't have a lot of pieces.

"We weren't expecting anything at all," Edaakie said. "We took a chance. It just blew our minds."

The two are trying to revive Zuni pottery where everything is natural and in the old style of making pottery -from firing the pots outside, to firing the pots upside down, to the designs and the shapes and forms on each pot. Silas said each pot was designed for a purpose, each shape had a reason and each design means something.

"When you look at these pots, the necks have slants in them and if you sit there and really look at it and wonder why the pots are shaped like that, you can tell that the people were actually really intelligent and smart to create necks and certain parts of the pot to prevent spills, to hold liquids," Silas said. "When you look at the pot you can see why they are shaped like that."

Silas and Edaakie love the old style because it carries on traditional ways of doing things that are important to both of their cultures and brings back pots that many people have not seen before.

"A lot of older work, especially prehistoric from the Zuni area, that is what our main focus is, to recreate vessels that were unearthed here in Zuni," Edaakie said.

Silas said that new, younger artists should take a chance on shows like the Zuni Fest.

"It is something that can help benefit them in their art and their name and whatever they are trying to do with their art," Silas said. "To us now, it is just do it. You never know the outcome."

More information on the 25th Annual Zuni Festival of Arts & Culture, including a schedule of events and participating artists, is available by visiting musnaz.org or calling (928) 774-5213.

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