As the holidays are approaching, now is the time to start your online holiday shopping. In the first post of my Holiday Gift Ideas series, I will highlight a fantastic gift idea for the Native American or Southwestern art lover.
Originally given as educational gifts to Hopi children, an authentic Hopi Kachina doll is my first pick for an amazing and unique gift. This would not, however, be recommended for a child today, these dolls are much too valuable. I would only recommend this as a special gift to a serious collector of Native American or Southwestern art and only if it is within your budget.
Kachina dolls represent the masked male dancers called Kachinas. Kachina dancers represent spirits, often animals or abstract ideas, that carry the prayers of the Hopi people back to the spirit world. The Kachina spirits are believed to live on certain sacred mountain peaks in the Southwest. Ceremonies are held during the Hopi religious calender, from December to mid July. There are five major ceremonies lasting nine days each. The Kachinas dance in the plaza and from Kiva to Kiva, giving the dolls and other gifts to the children. The Hopi people sprinkle corn pollen on the dancers as they pass by, offering prayers and exchanging blessings before the spirits return to their mountain homes.
Traditionally, Kachina dolls are carved from a single piece of cottonwood tree root. These roots are light and sturdy, making them an excellent material for carving. Starting with a rough log of cottonwood root, the artist begins carving out the basic shape of the doll. As the work progresses, finer details begin to appear. When the artist is finished carving, the doll is painted with the appropriate colors of the Kachina it represents. Kachina dolls are believed to posses some of the power of it’s spirit likeness.
There are other Pueblo Native American tribes that make Kachina dolls like the Zuni and Navajo, but these dolls do not have the religious significance or value that authentic Hopi Kachina dolls have. The Zuni make Shalako Kachina dolls as decorative figurines. The Navajo also began carving Kachina dolls, embellishing them with beads, leather, feathers, fur and turquois. If an authentic Hopi Kachina doll is out of your price range, an authentic Zuni or Navajo Kachina doll would also make an excellent gift.