Navajo Christmas Pictorial Rug - Helena Begay (#055)
25 1/2" x 25 1/2"
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Weavers of Navajo pictorial rugs draw inspiration from Navajo traditional and contemporary lifestyles as well as aspects of contemporary culture. Many collectors favor romantic representations of Navajo life featuring hooghans (the Navajo traditional home), wagons, livestock and traditionally dressed Navajo people placed within the red rock landscape of the Navajo homeland, Dinetah. Modern conveniences such as pickup trucks, TV antennas, and satellite dishes have crept into the pictorial iconography.
The earliest surviving documented Navajo weaving portraying pictorial images is the Chief White Antelope blanket found in 1864 at the Sand Creek Massacre site in Colorado. Navajo textile scholars Kate Peck Kent, Joe Ben Wheat, Kathleen Whitaker and Nancy J. Blomberg by way of written records have identified pictorial elements in Navajo blankets as early as 1840 and it is most probable that images appeared in Navajo blankets before that time.
Pictorial representations in Navajo weaving have branched into several categories based on secular or sacred images. Navajo religious figures such as yeis, the Navajo holy people, and other elements from Navajo sandpainting art as well as depictions of the sandpaintings themselves began to emerge in the late 1800’s. This sacred imagery has sinced evolved into substyles of Navajo weaving known as Yei or Yeibichai rugs and Sandpainting rugs which will be addressed separately.
Another popular image is the Tree of Life. borrowed from early Armenian imagery bearing the same name. Navajo Tree of Life weavings represent one of the best examples of how a foreign idea can be introduced into Navajo artistic awareness and reformulated to work within Navajo cultural expression. Originally, the birds represented the spirits of the dead. During the Christian era, the tree and birds became a symbol of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. In the Navajo way of thinking, the tree became a stalk of corn growing from the sacred ceremonial basket, a symbol of life and the birds represent abundance and balance in nature.
Navajo pictorial rugs are now recognized as true Navajo folk expression, a reflection of historic events whether the introduction of the train to the reservation or the tragedy of 9/11. Mickey Mouse, Santa Clause and Elvis have all found their way into Navajo pictorial imagery. This category represents the most diverse arena of Navajo weaving, accessible to any collector who hopefully approaches these visions of Navajo and contemporary life with both a sense of humor and a healthy dose of respect.
About the artist:See all items by Helena Begay
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After the medicine woman told the people about the prayersticks she told them that there was a place in the underworld where two rivers crossed. It was called ni tqin'kae tsosi, fine fiber cotton (Indian hemp). There were two persons who brought the seed of that plant, they were spiders. They said that the people were to use the plant instead of skins for their clothing. So this seed was planted in the earth? More about this legend