Annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture
August 2, 2013
Public Festival August 3–4, 2013
and Sustaining Diné Culture
Immerse yourself in the Diné way of life
at the 64th Navajo Festival of Arts & Culture.
More than 80 Navajo artists, musicians, dancers and cultural experts
will travel to the museum from all corners of the Navajo Nation to
share their traditions through artistic expression. Silversmiths,
jewelers, painters, weavers, folk carvers and multi-generations of
families will be on site to discuss the customs inspiring their work.
To describe themselves, Navajos use the word Diné, meaning “The
People” or “Children of the Holy People.”
The festival supports what the Navajo
call “hozho” — living a happy and wise long life, in balance and
harmony with the earth and sky.
“We hope to foster cross cultural
understanding and provide insights into how Navajo people see their
Robert Breunig, director, Museum of Northern Arizona. “We explore the
customs and practices families are using to keep traditions strong.”
Visitors will experience weaving on looms, sand painting in action,
Churro Sheep, pottery demonstrations, Hoop Dancing, the pageantry of
Navajo social dances and musical performances.
The scent of red and green chili stew, roasted sweet corn, Navajo
tacos and fry bread will fill the air.
Besides artist booths, one-of-a-kind consigned art pieces including
pottery, paintings, weavings, and baskets from artisans across the
Navajo Nation will be on display and for sale. Consigned pieces are
eligible for entry in the juried portion of the festival.
Heritage Insight Programs support the 2013 festival theme of
sustaining the traditions of the Navajo land, language and culture:
Theresa Boone Schuler, a Diné educator from Flagstaff will lead the
very popular ethnobotany walks along the Museum’s Rio de Flag Nature
Trail and discuss the traditional Navajo uses of regional native
plants. Schuler gained her knowledge from her father, a noted Diné
herbalist who urged her to pass on the knowledge of traditional
healing plants by teaching about identification and usage.
Larry King, Navajo linguist, joins the festival again this year to
share his wisdom and desire for teaching the Diné language. King gives
a basic introduction of the Navajo language that includes enlightening
reflections of the Diné culture in Navajo and English. Travel a verbal
path of history and legend as King illustrates how Navajos use humor
to cope. Geared to all age levels and Navajo and non-Navajo speakers.
Watch a sand painting being created by Hosteen Etsitty. He uses
natural colors to depict Navajo deities, animals, plants and planetary
beings. He’ll discuss how the ancient art form is intended to restore
harmony. Etsitty learned the art of Navajo sand painting at age 17
from elders within the spiritual community. He has since been
perfecting the art that is an integral part of the Navajo culture and
Navajo healing ceremonies.
Learn about weaving traditions with Ann Hedlund, director of Arizona
State Museum’s Gloria F. Ross Tapestry Program at the University of
Arizona. She will discuss how the Navajo weaving process is passed
from family to family. Combining her fieldwork among contemporary
Navajo weavers and her research into many museums’ 19th Century
blanket and rug collections, she also will explore the issue of
sustainability as reflected in this dynamic art form.
The Navajo relationship to sacred places is featured in a Navajo and
English talk by Anthropologist Klara Kelly and Navajo cultural expert
Harris Francis. The two present their research from interviewing
Navajo traditionalists on Navajo sacred spaces, land preservation and
efforts to sustain Navajo language and Culture. They speak in both
English and Navajo.
Barbara Lacy, author of Nanisé, A Navajo Herbal: One Hundred Plants
from the Navajo Reservation, will use late 1800s photographs in
her presentation featuring how Navajos historically used what grew in
nature to make belongings such as pottery, wicker pot, rugs, looms and
moccasins. Lacy shares her own collection of handmade Navajo items.
James Bilagody, Navajo singer, songwriter, comedian and actor is
Cultural Interpreter for the Heritage Insights tent. Bilagody will
introduce performers and speakers using history, humor and stories to
explore the Navajo culture throughout the day.
World Champion hoop dancer and traditional healer Jones Benally, his
daughter Jeneda, son Clayson, and two young grandchildren form the
Jones Benally Family Dancers. These three generations together bring
the healing power, beauty, and profound messages of Diné culture to
educate and uplift audiences around the globe.
A mix of Native rock, punk and world music will impact the stage with
the band Sihasin, powered by Jeneda and Clayson Benally. Bass and
drums with vocal harmonies give way to Navajo singing and melody that
inspires people to stand up for their rights. Originally from Black
Mesa on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, they were born into the
heart of a political land dispute separating them by a fence from
traditional homeland and family. They grew up protesting the
environmental degradation and inhumane acts against their traditional
way of life and sacred places. Selections include a modern rendition
of Woody Guthrie protest folk music.
Jones Benally is set to perform a series of hoop dances.
Traditionally, hoop dancing was used to release a bad spirit from the
body. Benally has been dancing for 70 years and has been featured on
the Oprah Winfrey Show and in Arizona Highways magazine.
Benally has also performed for Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. He
has appeared in many films and documentaries and continues to dance at
ceremonies to heal the sick. Benally is a traditional practitioner and
works at the Indian Health Services.
Radmilla Cody brings her “bluebird” voice to the festival stage with
performances sung in English and in Navajo. This traditional Navajo
Canyon Records recording artist, Indie Award Winner, Native American
Music Award Winner and international performer, continues to maintain
Navajo culture by recording music that children and elders can sing in
The Dineh Tah’ Navajo Dancers will delight audiences with dances
depicting important times in Navajo life. Dances will include the Sash
Belt Dance that tells the Navajo Spider Woman story of the super-human
being who introduced weaving to the people. A big hit with the
audience is the Basket Blessing Dance, representing beauty. It
symbolizes the home and is the central item used to consummate a
traditional Navajo wedding. The design of the basket is of ancient
origin, which depicts the journey of the people from the four
under-worlds and their arrival in to the fifth world.
And Aaron White, songwriter, guitarist and Navajo flute player and
carver, will perform some new material inspired by his Navajo and Ute
roots. White has played everywhere from a presidential inaugural ball
to a benefit concert at Arizona's San Francisco Peaks. He founded the
Grammy-nominated group, Burning Sky and is known for his fingerpicking
guitar style and passion for songwriting.
“This year we are excited to have key weavers demonstrating on site,”
says Anne Doyle, Heritage Program manager. “I encourage people to
watch this beautiful art form in action while you have the
Weaving demonstrations include Vivian Descheney known for her
distinctive Ganado, Two Grey Hills, Chief Blanket and Burntwater
designs. Marlowe Katoney will be weaving his rugs that use
contemporary images such as “Angry Birds” designs.
The current “Diamonds in Wool: Ganado, Klagetoh, Two Grey Hills
Textiles” rug exhibit in the Navajo Textiles Gallery also showcases
the beauty of weaving.
Renowned painters Bahe Whitethorne, Bahe Whitethorne, Jr., Shonto
Begay, Redwing Nez and many others will be on site telling the stories
behind their work.
Children will enjoy learning about Navajo customs by making rattles,
rug patterns, and woven bookmarks in the Creative Corner.
About the Navajo
The Navajo Nation is the largest tribe in the U.S., covering nearly
27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. With a
population that has surpassed 250,000, this sovereign nation is
focused on health care, economic development, and employment to
benefit the Navajo people. Thousands of tourists each year are
attracted to its natural wonders at Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly,
and Chaco Canyon.
The 10th Annual Celebraciones de la Gente, October 26-27, 2013 is part of MNA's Heritage Program. Make
plans now to attend this upcoming festival!
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