|from Adrian Leon Gallery|
When one thinks of a doll, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a little girl’s toy. However, not all dolls are toys, and not all dolls are for girls. In a world that is set up to respect the belief system and religion of its people, Hopi kachina dolls are used as a medium to help train young children how to behave and honor the native tradition. Kachina dolls, known as tihu by the Hopi people, come in various disguises that are designed to represent the various kachina spirits and to teach good moral values and judgement. Since the discovery of the tihu, its form and style have transformed over time to accommodate the changing world. The tihu is not just a doll to the Hopi, but another form of good spirits from the lower world aiding the living in the upper world.
To the Hopi people of Arizona, their religion is their way of life. While they believe in Mother Earth and Father Sun, it is the kachinas that bring good fortune, blessings, punishments, and weather conditions to the Hopi. Kachinas are spiritual messengers of the Creator who can appear in a variety of forms. “…A kachina can be an abstract thing. You don’t know the meaning behind it – all you know is that it will perform for you, it brings rain, it carries messenges back to whoever is making rain”, describes Michael Lomatuway’ma, a Hopi man (The Kachinas). Kachinas act as intermediaries between the living and the dead. Hopi men dress as kachina dancers during certain festivals throughout the year and bear gifts to the young Hopi children. One of these gifts may include a kachina doll.
During the winter solstice, kachinas arrive in the upper world with the living and return to the under world with the dead during the summer solstice. During the six months that the kachinas are away, they are believed to reside in the mountains to the west, appearing as clouds to the living. When it is time for the kachinas to arrive, Hopi men dress as kachinas and perform rituals in the community’s plaza. First, the men summons the kachinas in a kiva, a sacred area designated for ritualistic purposes, to come through a sipapu, a hole in the floor treated as a doorway to the under and upper worlds. When the men emerge from the kiva, they bring with them gifts, chants, dances, and prayers, and wear masks with costumes that imitate a particular kachina. The Hopi believe that while being dressed as kachinas, the dancers will gain power to send prayers to the spirits, bringing rain for prosperous crops and other sorts of blessings for everyone. Only men may perform in the kachina mask prayers and dances, but everyone in the community is welcome to join the audience. Kachina dancers usually hand out bows and arrows to the boys and kachina dolls to the girls at the ceremony, which are presented at different periods of the girls’ lives.
Although the origin of the tihu is unknown, some historians and archeologists claim they started being carved around the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries (class notes 11/18), since plazas began to develop at this time, as well as other changes in Hopi art (Plog 163). Others argue that the origin of kachina dolls changed forms with the influence of Christianity, making the style to look more saint-like (class notes 11/18).
During the 1930′s, tihu carver Jimmy Kewanwetaya was pushed into signing his work, which is non-traditional for the Hopi. This started the artification of the kachina doll and it became a commodity for tourists (class notes 11/18). Styles were changed to look more realistic, like that of a human dancer, and clothing was added along with other identification. Still, the styles are ever-changing, adapting to the changes in customs and artists. Today, authentic tihu’s can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Problems arising from the commodity of kachina dolls resulted in non-Hopi artists crafting fake tihu’s, which are of far less value than authentic kachina dolls. Skilled male Hopi carvers try to give the doll the spirit of the kachina it represents, thus reproducing the spirit’s personality. Non-Hopi artist’s kachina dolls frequently lack “certain details, incorrect design, or sometimes have features that are exaggerated” (Branson IV). “A full figure doll is considered to have all body parts carved [and] with more details” (Kachina Doll Carvers). “From a Hopi perspective, [tithu] that are carved by people who are not Hopi are not katsina dolls…. Dolls carved by those not familiar with Hopi religion [do] not convey the proper feeling [and, to Hopis,] they look wrong.” (Hopi Katsintithu Katsina Dolls). This source also explains that a fake tihu may be wrongly characterized, with “lots of fur, and added touches that are essentially meaningless within Hopi culture.”
Kachina dolls are made to look life-like and as “accurate images of the live kachina dancers” (Branson IV). Authentic tihus are made of cottonwood root, a considerably soft wood found along the watery regions of Hopi territory, and dried for a season. They are carved only by initiated kachina carvers and painted with vibrant colors. The Hopi believe that color is symbolic of life, that adding color gives it life, and that it is not a tihu until it is painted (class notes 11/18).
Other symbolism involving the kachina dolls represent other Hopi beliefs, as well. Cottonwood is found near water; water is extremely significant to the Hopi, since that is one of the main ways kachina spirits manifest themselves. Because cotton appears similar to clouds, another way the kachina spirits display themselves, cottonwood is the chosen medium (class notes 11/18). The offerings which the kachina dancers bring, also mimicked by the tihu, may include corn, a sacred food of the Hopi, and rattles, believed to influence the rain gods since they make the sound of rain when shaken. Rain is also represented by long bangs, and yucca appears as clouds when rubbed into a lather. Feathers found on a kachina doll may represent life, breath, prayer, and a token of mortality, but are only worn by dancers impersonating the dead; however, the government has put a ban on using feathers of endangered species (class notes), so the feathers are now carved (Guide to Hopi Kachinas). Evergreen, particularly the Douglas Spruce, is usually either carried or worn as a collar by the kachinas. The tree symbolizes fertility and eternal life; the branches are its hands, which makes the rustling sound of rain (class notes 11/18). The offering from kachinas to living or immortal spirit beings is placed in the right hand; offerings to the dead are placed in the left hand (class notes 11/19). On the female kachina dolls, the coiled, or butterfly-styled hair is worn by unmarried women and is a symbol of virginity (class notes 10/26).
Kachina dolls are usually given to infant girls and new brides, but are sometimes given at other special occasions, such as a rite of passage. Some sources say that infant boys get the tihu, as well. While children may receive a flat doll made of thin board, it is not intended as a toy, but as an instructional object designed to maintain discipline and to help the children understand the belief system of the Pueblos. Usually, the flat kachina doll “represents Hahay’iwuuti, the mother of all kachinas” (D’Alleva 57). Hahay’iwuuti, also known as the Pour Water Woman, carries a water gourd in one hand and an ear of white corn in the other. She wears a white mask with turkey feathers, white moccasins, a black dress, a sash tied at her waist, and a red, white, and black cape. Her hair is black and put into small, flat pony-tails on each side of her head or in the butterfly style, and her bangs are long and red. On her cheeks are red circles, similar to that of a clown’s (Branson 30).
There are over 250 kachinas known to the Hopi people (Kachina Dolls). The kachina’s heirarchy begins with the chiefs, Eototo and Ahola; He-e-e or He Wuti is the female leader to warrior maiden kachinas. Aholi is known as the chief’s lieutenant, and the most popular and recognizable kachinas are the koshare and koyemsi clowns.
Eototo, the chief kachina, is known as the “Father of All Kachinas” (Branson 5). Eototo wears an all-white mask with feathers on his head and his shirt, kilt, leggings, and painted hands are all white. He also wears a Douglas Fir or foxskin collar, a sash, belt, and a black bandolier across one shoulder. The Father kachina’s eyes and mouth are made of black circles, and he carries a bag of cornmeal in one hand and a chief’s stick with an ear of corn and a sacred water bottle in the other hand. This kachina is believed to have control over all of the seasons. (Branson)
The other chief kachina, Ahola, carries a gourd with sacred water and a ceremonial wand. The front of his distinct mask is made of yucca sifter basket, which flattens its shape, and a gourd that makes an upward beak which protrudes from a black triangular-shape where the facial features would be. The basket is then covered with cloth or buckskin and the entire mask is painted in either yellow, blue, or reddish-brown in quarter-sections and covered with rows of cross marks which represent stars. On his head, Ahola dons a row of black-tipped feathers that form a crescent. The astronomical symbols may represent the Hopi’s connection with the universe. His shirt and kilt white, and collar made of foxskin, Ahola also wears the traditional sash and belt around his waist. (Branson 2)
Aholi, not to be confused with Ahola, is more easily recognizable. Known as the chief’s lieutenant, this kachina has an unmistakable tall, blue, cone-head mask with feathers on top, white hands, a red torso, one blue arm and leg, and one yellow arm and leg. Like the other kachinas, he also wears a kilt, belt, and sash, but also wears a distinct cape painted with colorful spots. On his chest are blue and yellow vertical marks; he carries a ceremonial staff in one hand and a chief’s stick with a water gourd in the other. (Branson 5)
Another kachina with distinct features is He-e-e or He Wuti, Warrior Woman. She dons a black mask with round yellow eyes, a red rectangular mouth, bare teeth, and a long beard. Her long black bangs represent a scalp lock, which “symbolically represented the souls of the enemy who would be slaves to the victor in the next world” (Taylor 154), and a bare stick used to create the butterfly style protrudes from the side of her head. She wears a black dress, a black cape with x’s of corn husks, and a white wedding belt. He-e-e “is considered to be a powerful warrior and heroine who rushed out and defended her village from enemies with her hair only half-dressed.” (Branson 13)
The clown kachinas are very recognizable among all of the tihu. Koshare wears a hat similar to that of a jester. His entire body and costume is painted with large horizontal black and white stripes, like that of prisoner’s uniforms. Acting much like a cross between jesters and prisoners, both Koshare and Koyemsi are used as a form of control to teach others that acting immorally humorous or troublesome is not the Pueblo way of life. (Branson 39)
The Koyemsi, or mudhead clowns, are probably the most recognizable. They are a reddish-brown clay color from head to toe, wearing a rounded mask with rounded or beak-shaped eyes, ears, and mouth. Four balls are attached to Koyemsi’s head which contain seeds or sacred dirt. The balls are over each ear, on top of the head, and on the back of the mask, and turkey feathers are gathered and tied to the base of each ball. Koyemsi’s apparel varies from artist to artist. (Branson 38)
Unlike dolls that are depicted as toys in the United States, the tihu has religious and cultural meaning. To the Hopi people of the Southwest, kachinas are their assistants and teachers from the under world. As an educational medium, children learn the customs of the Pueblo and the essence of kachinas from the tihu. Though many of the styles of the tihu have changed over time, their meaning and purpose still remain as strong and bold as the people who authenticize them.