Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kenji Kawano and Navajo Adornment

The photographic work of Kenji Kawano.

Last week I visited the Navajo Nation Museum's newest exhibit. It features the work of Japanese photographer Kenji Kawano whose work exclusively captures the imagery of the Navajo Nation.

Beaded earrings and things

Handmade Indigenous earrings made by Venaya.
Photo credit Venaya Yazzie

The use of 'sunburst' or 'horizon' colors in Indigenous beadwork is popular. Perhaps it is done in reverence for the sky, or an homage to the colors of the sun's radiance, for whatever the reason many Indigenous beaders know these colors sooth the 'Indin' soul.

I designed and beaded  these new earrings in my new collection. The design pays homage to the stars. It is a stylized 'star' concept, but many may see only a cross. As a beader I used many mixes of colors, but always I prefer the sunset brilliance of colors in my work.

Indigenous Adornment is my muse, and with it nestled into the hem of my garments I will bead on! Blessings

Bead life

Hand-made beaded earrings made by Venaya.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Venaya Yazzie 2015

Lately I have returned to the world of traditional Indigenous beading. My hands and eyes have settled into the studio light with a slender beading needle attached to shiny nylon thread, waxed with beeswax.  And, in front of me a rainbow of colored seed beads. I am a 're-born' beader!

These earrings are a pair that I made this year, they are my inspiration or my initiation back into the world of Indigenous beading. Its funny how many of my stories, or recollections concerning my art take me back to my time as a student at IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts) in Santa Fe, NM. Well, this beading I am doing nowadays allows for my mind and hands to live harmoniously as a team. I have begun my beading trek this new year and I am thoroughly engaged in the 'beauty' of it all. My painting studio has morphed into a beading studio, but this is a wonderful thing, for I find the process of beading refreshing and inspiring as I am 'awakened' to new ways of 'seeing.'

As a painter I apply the colors onto a flat surface, the paintbrush a bridge to my work, yet with beading I apply the colored- bead to the buckskin surface.  The whole beading experience seems to be a more tangible, organic ritual for me. This short break from painting my two-dimensional works is medicinal and it is a good thing. The beading items I make also assist in funding my art, so I will soon be announcing some of my items for sale.

The memories I keep concerning the Indigenous beading technique helps to fuel a rich history of a modern Indigenous women. I learned to bead primarily from two amazing people I met in Santa Fe; a Hopi/Seminole girl and  an Alabama Cousatta/ Lakota boy. Both of these beautiful friends taught me how to bead and forever they are with me helping me keep the 'beauty' of this life about 'hozho.' Little did we know we would be contributing still to the act of INDIGENOUS ADORNMENT.


Sometimes you lose a beautiful piece of jewelry. An old friend from my IAIA days use to say about a broken piece of turquoise, "The ancestors needed some turquoise." The other day I dropped  one of my favored turquoise earrings that I acquired from Santo Domingo Pueblo, sadly I lost a quality item, but truly some 'ancestor' gained a beautiful chunk of earthly-turquoise for their journey. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Navajo Matriarchs

Navajo Women on Navajoland
Photo courtesy of Internet

Though this historical photograph is a bit grainy, it is a wonderful depiction of 20th century southwestern Navajo women 'adornment.'

The two Navajo women featured in this photograph are contrasted against some desert rock formations somewhere on the Navajo lands either in Arizona or perhaps in New Mexico. As many are aware of, the Navajo reservation concerns a vast land mass which encompasses three southwestern states: Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Although many Navajo communities have a plethora of unique distinctions, one cannot decipher via garment 'adornment.' But, it can be stated via their style of dress that this picture probably dates to the 1930s-1940s era of America.

Growing up in a matrilineal home full of the Manyhogans clan women, I  have been blessed to see first-hand the diversity in styles of Navajo women's garments. When I mention 'matrilineal' I am speaking about the Navajo cultural way of kinship that is based on the bloodline of the mother, and all female line.

Because my maternal grandmother was gifted a Brownie camera as a young girl, she was able to document the lives of Navajos (her family) living in the 1930s era to the present. Alot of what she photographed are scenes such like this photograph featured here. The women on the left in the red velvet shirt looks to be of a younger age than the other woman, and her clothing style highly reflects that. How is it that I can see this? Well, we can see that her shirt is more highly 'adorned' with silver. Her velvet shirt was a common style during this era of Navajo life, and many of the women used American money via coins to 'adorn' or decorate their shirts. Many times the women would commission a Navajo silversmith, usually a family member, to make silver dimes or quarters into buttons.

According to the women's personal style she would make her own clothing style and then add her own unique outer design with her silver coins. It should be said to that Navajo women always didn't use money, but used silver ornaments specially made for clothing 'adornment.'

Both women are wearing tiered-cotton skirts and are 'adorned' with both silver and turquoise jewelry via their necklaces. I really adore this photograph and I hope you can see the wonderment of it too.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

The land I love

Side mirror view of Navajo reservation lands.
Photo by Venaya Yazzie
I feel so very fortunate to be give the ability to trek freely on my Navajo homelands. As an artist and cultural educator I have opportunities to see the beauty of the desert and mountain range lands of the the Navajo people.

In the 21st century I do not ride a horse or pull a horse-drawn wagon, but instead travel to and fro in my modern 'Indian' vehicle. As Native people we are still drawn to be nomadic and trek daily across the vast lands of our Navajo ancestors. The land is our heart, the land is our mother, we for the most part respect her.

I am thankful for what I have to see and experience in my little corner of the world.

Iina' Cafe

Iina' Cafe menu.
Photo by Venaya Yazzie

If you are ever in Window Rock, AZ a must visit is the small cafe located inside the Navajo Nation Musuem. The staff is wonderful and the vanilla latte's are right on!

Window Rock, AZ

Though I am a resident of the eastern Dine' reservation I sometimes have to trek to the capital of the Navajo Nation which is located in Window Rock, AZ. A quick visit to the rock formation 'window' rock is a must.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Silver and turquoise pendant

Silver and turquoise pendant with silver chain
Photo by Venaya Yazzie 2015
Sunday is always a good day for me to catch up with life. Today has been good to me, as I have been able to sift through some of my newly acquired jewelry items. Such items were acquired over the span of a few months, and many of my jewelry pieces were 'gifted' to me during the holiday season.

This pendant pictured is one that I was given by a wonderful friend of mine during the new year. From the first look I this pendant has become my favored piece of jewelry, and I have worn it nearly everyday since I got. The stone itself is a beautiful color of azure and has a good matrix through it. I adore the way the turquoise stone is cut into a rectangle, and it is flat it sits nicely upon my lower neck region.

This jewelry piece represents the most respectful extension of Indigenous friendship, or I could say Indigenous 'sisterhood.' For, I was given the opportunity to sew regalia for a good friend, and this pendant of given as an extension of her thankfulness and appreciation for my efforts. I believe we will both wear our Indigenous cultural items with happiness as we think of our friendship.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Blessed to be a part of Indigenous Adornment community

Venaya and her 'family' at Hozhoni Days Powwow
in Durango, CO

In my reflection of the past year I have been overwhelmed by the goodness of people. My family, and my friends have and continually bless my life in every way.

I have gained the most amazing family in my friends from Durango, Colorado. Because of them I have been reminded of my cultural blessings and the abundance of knowledge that we share. Becuase of this group of unique individuals I cherish the smallest details of life in the 21st century in the life, lives of Indigenous women.

Through the dialogue and discussions in the concepts of Indigenous Adornment, our relationships and respect for each of us is heightened, such ties become links that will never be broken.

I thank Creator God for His blessings in my friends: Clancey, Aretha, Jackie, Sarah and her beautiful daughter. They have made my life more beauty-ful.