Museum of Northern Arizona

Flagstaff, AZ



Weaving Culture: Baskets from the Museum of Northern Arizona Collections


A freshly woven basket carries the scent of the earth, sun, and rain. Baskets also hold the history of Native American family ties dating back 9,000 years on the Colorado Plateau. A Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) exhibit, Weaving Culture: Baskets from the Museum of Northern Arizona Collections, opening on Saturday, November 4, 2000, examines the prehistory of the technology, gives voice to the challenges contemporary weavers face, and sings the traditional lore of basketry. (left: photo by Tony Marinella Copyright MNA)

The exhibit highlights beauty, diversity, and motifs of hundreds of basket forms ranging from utility to miniature among the Apache, Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Navajo, Yavapai, and prehistoric peoples. The exhibit also explores how basketry, ubiquitous to cultures throughout the world and particularly rich in the Southwest, is experiencing a renaissance.

Weaving Culture helps visitors understand baskets in the spiritual and emotional realm of their roles in ceremonies, as well as their daily functions of necessity such as economic survival in the marketplace, carrying harvest from the fields, storage containers, and architectural support in wall construction. An interactive area of the exhibit allows visitors to both try their hands at weaving and learning what climate zones the materials are collected from. Comments from Hopi weavers including Daisy Mansfield, Remalda Lomayestewa, Leora Kayquaptewa, and Peggy Kaye give personal insights into how all baskets are created from the heart. (left: photo by Tony Marinella Copyright MNA)

"When I make a basket the designs have meaning," said Hopi weaver Remalda Lomayetewa. "When I see another weaver's basket, I look to see if the designs are even and balanced."

MNA's legacy of supporting basket weaving traditions dates back to the 1930s when Museum founders Mary-Russell Ferrell and Harold S. Colton established marketplaces for Native artists. Mary-Russell also studied and recorded Hopi natural dye techniques, which resulted in a 1965 publication, Hopi Dyes. Current day Museum staff continued the Colton's hands-on understanding of the issues facing Native artists when they went on a willow gathering expedition with Katherine Marquez of the Yavapai Nation Cultural Preservation Office. They saw how subdivisions, golf courses, and pesticides are destroying the riparian areas where basket materials grow.

Visitors will learn about these issues and more when they visit the Weaving Culture exhibit, open through April 22, 2001, funded in part by the Arizona Humanities Council, Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the City of Flagstaff Arts & Sciences Commission.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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