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Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles
A major nationwide traveling exhibit of Kiowa and Comanche lattice cradles will have its premier opening at Gilcrease Museum on Saturday, December 4, 1999. The exhibition features thirty-eight Kiowa and Comanche historic lattice cradles and two new cradles created especially for this exhibition, one by a Kiowa artist and one by a Comanche artist. Gifts of Pride and Love examines the roles of cradles in reinforcing ethnic identity and emphasizing women's artistic expressions.
Following its opening at the Gilcrease, the exhibition will travel to the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, the Fowler Museum of Cultural History at the University of California at Los Angeles, and the National Museum of the American Indian in New York before being shown at the Haffenreffer in Rhode Island.
Lattice cradles - known as paih'dodl in Kiowa and waakohno in Comanche - were the preferred type of cradle on the southern Plains among Kiowa and Comanche from about 1870 to 1910. The lattice cradle is made of hide, canvas or wool cover placed over rawhide supports and laced to two narrow pointed boards and two narrower cross pieces, forming a lattice construction.
Kiowa cradle covers are normally heavily embroidered with glass beads, while Comanche cradles are often undecorated on the cover, but with paint, incised and tack decoration on the boards. Many of the elders of these societies have expressed their belief that the upright position of the cradleboard helps to "socialize" babies because it puts them at eye level with adults.
The cradles, which are among the most beautiful expressions of Plains Indian bead design of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, are technically intricate, brilliant in color and design, and practical in function. They have become a symbol of cultural pride.
The Gilcrease venue for Gifts of Pride and Love is made possible by the Oklahoma Humanities Council, the Oklahoma Arts Council, Hotel Ambassador, and The John Steele Zink Foundation.
This exhibition was organized by the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University, with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was produced in collaboration with descendents of Kiowa and Comanche cradlemakers.
Images from top to bottom: Daisy Mahtonsaw, Mount Sheridan, Oklahoma, Kiowa Cradleboard, Collection of Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology; Lois Smoky became a well-known artist, one of "the Kiowa Six." The cradle is in the collection of the Museum of the Great Plains, Lawton, Oklahoma, Photo: University of Pennsylvania Museum.
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