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Hopi Festival marks 75th year

Saturday and July 6, the Hopi Festival of the Arts in Flagstaff, Ariz., will again immerse visitors in the artistry and language of this ancient people. More than 60 artists from the 12 Hopi villages will present art forms they have created in the show’s 75th session.

The Museum of Northern Arizona’s early focus on preserving and promoting Hopi art forms evolved into the Hopi Craftsman Exhibition on the Fourth of July Weekend of 1930. The tradition has been repeated every year except the gasoline-poor war years of 1943-46. Because commercial traders were mostly interested in items designed specifically for tourists, more traditional artists learned to connect with collectors every July at this show.

For this Diamond Anniversary show the museum collected fine examples of Hopi arts from earlier annual shows. Visitors will see work by hand-coil potters Garnet Pavatea (1915-1981) and Rena Kavena (1898-1993), anchor artists of the shows from the ’50s to the ’70s. They will also see a wicker plaque basket from Sarah Gashwytewa ( unknown-2005) and a silver ladle by world-renowned jeweler Charles Loloma (1921-1992), among other extraordinary collection items.

MNA Director Robert Breunig said the display of exceptional items from MNA storerooms represents not only the depth of the museum’s collections but its long friendships with the Hopi.

He added, "Years ago, all of us at the museum knew these artists. The collection that we are showing is a record of those relationships that brings back memories. Like with Garnet Pavatea work, when I see her pottery, I feel her presence. In my mind I still see her. I can only imagine what this collection might do for some Hopi people when they see it."

At the Hopi pueblos, weavers are always men. In the 1930s, MNA recorded 213 Hopi weavers. By the 1980s, only about 20 weavers were active. Today, traditional weaving is done mostly for ceremonies by a very small number. But some of those weavers will be working at the festival, and talking to visitors about their craft.

Hopi weavers use two kinds of looms — the vertical loom which is suspended upright from the ceiling to the floor, and the belt or waist loom which is suspended at the upper end and fastened around the weaver’s waist.

Quilting was introduced to Hopi women more than 100 years ago by Mennonite missionaries. Since then, the simple patchwork bed coverings have evolved into contemporary art. Adopting this widespread American custom, Hopi quilters have incorporated cultural symbols and designs to make quilts uniquely their own. The skill is passed from mother to daughter, with quilts being given as gifts at baby naming ceremonies, weddings, and other special occasions.

For the first time, a native fashion show of traditional and contemporary apparel will be presented by Hopi artist and seamstress Maya David.

Ten seamstresses from all three Hopi mesas are creating these fashions with intricate detailing and an emphasis on design.

The Museum of Northern Arizona is located three miles north of historic downtown Flagstaff on Highway 180. Festival admission is $7 adult, $6 senior (65 and over), $5 student, $4 child, and free to MNA members. For more information, go to musnaz.org or call (928) 774-5213.

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