Kachina, Hopi Shalako
Arts of the Americas
On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
In the southwestern United States, a supernatural being that represents a life-force or embodies a natural phenomenon such as the sun, the moon, a plant, or an animal is called a koko by the Zuni and a katsina (commonly anglicized as “kachina”) by the Hopi. Such beings have the power to control rainfall, crop growth, and fertility; to cure and protect; and to act as messengers between the gods and human beings. Carved kachina figures, also known as kachina dolls, are representations of these spirits and can have a sacred or an educational purpose. During some ceremonies, the carvings are given to community members to reward virtuous behavior, recognize a recent marriage, or teach children about religion. In the 1800s, a lively market for the carvings developed among non-Native collectors and tourists, giving rise to the elaborate art form that flourishes today.
Cottonwood root, pigment
4 3/4 × 1 5/8 × 2 7/16 in. (12.1 × 4.1 × 6.2 cm)
Gift of Joan and Sanford Krotenberg
Shalako (or rainmaker Kachina) arrives at the end of the year in December for both the Hopi and the Zuni. Towering over 7 feet high they appear in the pueblo village and go from home to home accepting gifts of food as they dance and give blessings all night long. The Shalakos have come to the human realm to collect the people’s prayers and take them back to the rainmakers at the end of the ceremony, thus connecting the mortal world to the spirit realm. Their final task is to go outside to the river and cross it and disappear, thus signally the end of that religious cycle until the Kachinas come again.
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