hopi katsina doll

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Between 2003-5, I sold new traditional Hopi Indian katsina dolls in my first Canyon Road gallery from my “wall of dolls.” I worked with a number of wonderful Hopi carvers in those days, including 2 very young carvers who were just starting out: Darance “Makwesa” Chimerica and Randy Brokeshoulder. Since that time, these carvers have become young carving veterans, winning awards and developing a well-deserved following. I have followed their careers and am so proud of them. This is the first time Randy and Makwesa have been featured together.

So who are the Hopi Katsinam and what is the purpose of the dolls traditionally? In his classic book Following the Sun and Moon, Alph Secakuku says this:

“The Katsinam are the benevolent spirit beings who live among the Hopi for about a six-month period each year…The Katsina spirits are…the very important, meaningful, and beneficial counterpart in a relationship invaluable to the Hopi religious beliefs. Accordingly, we do not perceive the katsina dolls simply as carved figurines or brightly decorated objects. They have important meaning to us, the Hopi people: we believe they are the personification of the katsina spirits, originally created by the katsinam in their physical embodiment. They are presented to females by the spirits as personalized gifts to award virtuous behavior and to publicly recognize special persons, such as brides…”

Beginning with Manfred Susunkewa, Walter Howato, Vernon Mansfield and many other fine carvers of the last generation, traditional dolls are now offered to the art market. As for Randy and Makwesa, I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Randy Brokeshoulder: I’m originally from Phoenix, AZ but I currently reside in Gallup, NM.

My dad and brother, Nick and Brent taught me how to carve when I was 21 years old. I used to just tie feathers and put together dolls, until moving to Albuquerque in 2006. I started carving on my own.

I was influenced by both my dad and brother first, I worked with them quite a bit and I tried to be like them with my art. Later on I was influenced by Philburt Honanie, Manfred Susunkewa, Darance Chimerica, Shannon Naha, Pat Josevama.

I like carving Qoqle Katsinas, Sio Omawu-Zuni Cloud, Honan-Badger, Hemis Katsinas, all the Sosoyokos-Ogre family types. I like carving these types because of the details. My favorite part is dressing them up. Sometimes painting can be a challenge but putting them together makes it come out great. Always a challenge to see the outcome.

I use shoeing files and small types, a pocket knife, razors-exacto blades, Coping saws, hacksaws, 60 grit sand paper, wood glue and a bandsaw to carve and get the dolls made. That’s my cheating tool to get it done quicker.

My materials for dressing dolls is horsehair-brown, black, grey, partridge tails, grouse tails and wing feathers, duck feathers, different colored tanned leathers, parrot feathers, Abilone shells, dyed wool, cotton, and cotton string.

Makwesa Chimerica: I reside on third Mesa in the village of hotevilla. I have been carving going on 17 years, I have been influenced and taught by family members along with a friend of mine bendrew atokuku . All my paints are natural earth mineral paints that I hand collect, crushed to a fine powder adding water an juniper sap as an adhesive. My tools are all hand wood tools, files, knives, saws, and razors. I try and stick to the traditional method of carving, times it can be challenge. I try and carve kachinas in how I see them in physical form, some I carve through word of mouth. Ernie Moore I forgot to mention was also another big influence in my carving. I have made dolls replicating some of the styles he would create were unique. My materials are tanned leather, string, pheasant feathers, duck, and parrot feathers . I have been fortunate with the places the shows the people I have met while exposing in what I love to do.