Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Powwow spirit

Venaya in her handmade powwow Jingle
regalia and beadwork.

I began dancing and participating in powwows in 1994, and in many ways helped to enforce and balance my identity as a 21st century Indigenous women. Since my first time in the powwow circle I have found humility and happiness, from that first moment I made made my own Jingle Dress, the essence of the powwow way has been a part of my life in some way.

As humans we must all find our 'way' to be happy, to be balanced, to find the sublime, for many Indigenous people it is dancing with and among the People in the powwow circle.  I am thankful everyday for my abilities and senses for the help me to appreciate the diversity of Indigenous people.

As I have matured in my own life, I appreciate the little details of my experience living as an Indigenous women, and as a powwow dancer whose dance is prayer.

Blessings in all things.

Powwow regalia

Jingle dress and beaded moccasins detail of Venaya's
powwow regalia.
Photo credit Venaya Yazzie 2015

A major part of my college experience had nothing to do with academia, in fact much of it had to do with dance and Indigenous Adornment practices. As a college student my week days were spent in the halls of college classrooms, but the weekend were all about roadtrips to powwows in the region.

I was fortunate to have good friends, powwow sisters who adored the powwow life, or powwow trail as much as I. Much of what these ways involved was prayer, dancing and singing, and too the Indigenous human ritual of 'adornment.'

As women of the powwow, we had more than one dress, or as it is called 'powwow regalia.' Such outfits are not 'costumes,' they are the material culture pieces of distinct groups of Indigenous people of the Americas. Please never refer to powwow regalia or other Indigenous cultural clothing as anything else.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Excercise your soul

Venaya and Rollie the family dog in
eastern Navajo lands, NM.

It is my daily ritual each morning to:
Rise early, pray and get out the door to trek.
My daily mantra is to sing at the river.
My daily medicine is to experience the beauty and natural 'adornment' of earth.
Every day I am humbled.
Every day I am thankful.

Every day is about Adornment

Northwest New Mexico Mesa Sunset
Photo by Venaya Yazzie 2015

Everyday our eyes behold 'adornment.' In this case I speak of the 'adornment' of the Earth and Sky, for they are ever present in our human lives. The experience of sight continually amazes me and perpetually stirs my soul to praise. To present in nature and to breath in the Beauty is medicine and I am honored to be humbled at God's magnificent Creation.

March on the eastern Dine' lands in northwestern New Mexico has been overflowing with the most spectacular sunsets. I am blessed to live in a place where my eyes have access to the splendor of desert sandstone mesas that are uninterrupted by technology via power poles or fences. My art studio faces the west and many instances amid my own creation of art I often look out my windows for divine inspiration.

The Beauty of the land and her many adornments via the clouds, flora and fauna, colors of sky and times of day are endless and continual, but we must take the time to 'look.' All my life I have been fascinated with the outdoors, I find comfort in the wildness of the details of nature. My own soul adores the plethora of colors and textures available to experience, and in it all I see the Beauty of 'Adornment.' I hope you see it too! 

Blessings in all things.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Our 'rituals' - Personal Adornment

Navajo elder in New Mexico
Photo by Venaya Yazzie 2015

Everyone has a ritual. The choices we make on a daily basis have become so ingrained that many times we do not fully acknowledge the 'beauty' of our personal rituals.

As a college student in the late 1990s I attended a two-day Journalism workshop in Phoenix AZ at the Arizona State University campus. It was at this time that I met a Native journalist who spoke about our 'human rituals' and how they are the way we as humans created these 'survival' mechanisms as a way to life a fulfilled life. This conversation was powerful for me and I have kept it in my mind for many years, and I really feel it has thus led me to this point concerning 'INDIGENOUS ADORNMENT.'

As I have mentioned as previously, I was raised in the company of my Navajo matriarchs. As a small female child I watched them in their daily cultural 'rituals' whether it was in cooking the family meal, tending to the fire, maintaining the sheep corral, or spinning wool, my matriarchs unconsciously taught me about the ways of being a Navajo woman.

The memory of my great-grandmother Louise are still very strong in my mind. I can still see her smile and the way her almond shaped eyes curved on the outer edges. It is she who said we as Navajo women should never let our arms be 'bare of turquoise or silver' that we should always wear jewelry.

As an adult I now care for my maternal grandmother (pictured above) and I am blessed to have her in my life and see how she is perpetuating the Navajo 'beautyway' by making daily choices to 'adorn' herself with the beautiful blue stones of turquoise.

So, next time you look at your reflection, time travel to a place were you were a part of the human 'ritual' of adornment, or of a way of living that would prove a positive, blessed outcome.

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.