Diné arts and living history from 75 artists featured at annual Navajo festival
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - In August of 1949, through the cooperation of traders on the western portion of the Navajo Reservation, 15 trading posts submitted 10 of their best rugs to the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) to compete for prizes. The museum intended to interest both weavers and traders in keeping alive the old styles of weaving and improving the quality of yarns, dyes, and designs. This was the beginning of the Navajo Festival.
On Aug. 6-7, the 62nd Annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture will gather 75 artists from all corners of the Navajo Nation at the Museum, continuing the tradition of bringing artwork to market and sharing what makes their artwork distinctive. These two days of cultural immersion promise prominent musical performers, a traditional dance troupe, and Heritage Insight talks from the region's experts, all giving visitors a Navajo experience.
"The festival's theme of 'A Walk in Beauty' describes the weekend's experience well," said Museum Director Robert Breunig. "It's a lovely way to spend a high country summer day among the Flagstaff pines, here at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, or in Navajo, Doo'Ko'osliid. This year's entertainment under the big tent is some of the region's best, and there will surely be a monsoon shower or two."
Heritage Program Manager Anne Doyle said she is excited about the Navajo Festival's Heritage Insight presentations this year.
"These talks are meant to give visitors an intimate, in-depth understanding of our neighbors, the Diné people. Sponsored by Arizona Humanities Council, the talks are on subjects with cultural, historical, scientific, or artistic significance," Doyle said.
Heritage Insights Talks
Zonnie Gorman is an expert in the field of Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. She talks about their history and the experiences of her father, Dr. Carl Gorman, who was one of the original Code Talkers. Zonnie Gorman has lectured on this subject throughout the U.S. at universities, colleges, and museums, including MNA and the Museum of the American Indian.
In a community with few jobs, no public utilities, and high drop-out rates, the STAR School has set out to be a model small community school delivering a superior education. It promotes sustainable living, self-reliance, alternative building methods, and energy sources such as solar power, and it is the first solar-powered charter school in the U.S. Award-winning educator and media arts instructor Rachel Tso will introduce five student films at the festival including "RedBird Saves the Corn," a traditional Spider Woman story told through Lightbox Animation; "Ta'che'e'," a short documentary on the sweatlodge ceremony; "STAR Energy," which took Best of Fest at the Arizona Student Film Festival about using solar and wind power; "Nitsidigo'i," about making kneel down bread; and "Do'koo'osliid," about the role of the San Francisco Peaks in the lives of the student filmmakers.
Theresa Boone Schuler, a Diné educator from Flagstaff, will again lead the very popular ethnobotany walks along the Museum's Rio de Flag Nature Trail. She will discuss the traditional Navajo uses of regional native plants.
Navajo Linguist Larry King is a cultural bright light who walks visitors along a path of history and legend, highlighting the resilience of the Navajo Language and the way Navajos use humor to cope with hardship in their lives. He will also share humorous examples and fun stories about how new words and ideas are introduced into the Diné culture.
Weaver Kally Keams Lucero's work is exhibited in more than 18 United States museums and institutions and she participated in an indigenous weavers exchange, which took her to New Zealand and Japan. Lucero recently created a textile titled A Mother's Embrace, which was purchased as a gift to MNA's collections from a Collector's Club member. It will be on display during the festival in the Navajo Textile Gallery and she will be talking about the process of the rug's weaving and the story it represents.
Under the Big Tent
Navajo entertainer and singer James Bilagody will emcee the big tent activities throughout the day. Bilagody has worked as a deejay at KGHR Navajo Radio in Tuba City and KRCL in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Pollen Trail Dancers will perform storytelling dances meant to be performed in the warm season. Group leader Brent Chase accompanies the dance troupe with his humor, insight, and Navajo flute playing. The Sash Belt or Weaving Dance tells the story of Spider Woman's influence in weaving, the Basket Dance depicts the important role of baskets in Navajo life, and the Bow and Arrow Dance honors the warriors of old who have protected the Diné way of life.
Singer Radmilla Cody, a former Miss Navajo Nation (1997-1998) and winner of the Best Female Artist at the 2002 Native American Music Awards, will sing Navajo songs from her CD Spirit of a Woman.
Additional Festival Activities
Artist demonstrators Lola Cody (weaver), Melissa Cody (weaver), TahNibaa Naat'aanii (weaver) Sally Black (basket maker), and Alice Cling (potter) will be on hand to show how they make their award-winning artwork. All five of these artists are recognized for their accomplishments in their art form.
The museum's weaving exhibit in the Navajo Textiles Gallery changes periodically throughout the year. It showcases examples of fine historic and contemporary weaving styles from MNA's Navajo Textiles Collection of over 900 weavings. During the festival pictorial rugs and the Kally Keams Lucero's rug will be on display.
Outside in the courtyard at Creative Corner, kids and creative adults will be able to make take-home crafts. This year, make feathered horse head pendants, jeweled bow guards, and animal track bookmarks.
In addition to the 75 booth artists, museum volunteers will present consignment sales, allowing artists who produce only a few items a year a chance to sell their work. Hundreds of distinctive art pieces including paintings, weavings, jewelry, pottery and more will be on display and for sale in the consignment area.
About the Museum
Now celebrating its 83rd year, MNA has a long and illustrious history, and evokes the very spirit of the Colorado Plateau. It serves as the gateway to understanding this region, with nine exhibit galleries revealing Native cultures, artistic traditions, and natural sciences. MNA's four Heritage Program festivals highlight the region's cultures and encourage communication and the exchange of ideas between visitors, educators, and artists.
The Museum is located three miles north of historic downtown Flagstaff on Highway 180. The Navajo Festival is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, during regular museum hours. Festival and regular museum admission is $7 adults, $6 seniors (65+), $5 students, $4 Native people, and $4 children (7-17). For more information visit www.musnaz.org.