Kachinas and Yei – Everywhere I Go

This post is for Joe Reed who asked me about the photo I posted on Facebook.

On Wednesday, March 16, 2022, I got out of the house and drove to Elko. The Western Folklife Center had advertised a night of Celtic music and I wanted to get there early to get a front row seat and a decent parking space. After marking my chair (with my jacket) right next to the little stage area, I asked if I could kill time in the little museum area. During the day, you’re supposed to pay but no one seemed to pay attention so in I went.

On the far wall were paintings of kachinas. Most of the walls were covered with scenes of Western life but his one had kachinas and because no one was around, I burst into giggles. SERIOUSLY, MORE kachinas? It’s not like I don’t have a Butterfly kachina doll in my bedroom, my late husband’s yei rugs, and now etchings downstairs plus a copper plate of one and Yei, but there I was faced with paintings. And the magical Yei ceremonial blanket safely packed away in the back to keep it in its sacred state.

The photos I took have glare from the overhead lights so I went in search of clear images. But before doing that I clicked on the Current Exhibition page and discovered that the Jo Mora Exhibit is only going to be up until April 23! When I got home blathering on about it, no wonder I got a blank stare. These lithographs have only been on the wall for less than a year and they’re not going to be there for much longer!

The embedded video is a bit misleading – Peter Hiller does not work at the folklife center. Click on the image and you’ll download his CV. It’s fascinating. But more than that take a look at the Navajo rug behind his desk. No Talking God.

The exhibit had more information about the prints.

It would be great if all archival material was digitized but alas this one is not. it is the only collection I could find without having access to a research library database. If you’re really interested, you’ll need to contact the University of Tulsa to see if you can make an appointment to view these super rare photographs.

So here are the 8 kachinas that I could find because I just don’t think the photos I took did them justice.

The EIGHT images of Mora’s paintings that were reproduced in offset form are:

1. SHO-YÁNG-EP KÁTCHINA [Left-handed Katchina] (Soyangephoya)

2. HÉU-MISH KÁTCHINA (Hemis) This is the one I took, the link to the Adobe Gallery is broken.

3. TÉU-MAHS KÁTCHINA (Tumas or Crow Mother)

4. MU-SHÁISH KÁTCHINA [Buffalo] (Mosairu) 

5. POO-WHÁ-MUICH KÁTCHINA (Powamu) 

6. SÉE-PEEK-NICH (Sipikne)

This is one I took. The gallery image link is broken

7. HEU-MÍSH KÁTCHINA-MANA [Man] (Hemis Kachinmana) 

8. SHE-ÉU-HEU-MISH KÁTCHINA (Sio Hemis)

I’ll keep you posted on what I find out about acquiring a set of these. I hope they don’t cost this much!

And I need to call Marsha Davis at the Lamoille Gallery. She has a collection of kachinas and may not know about this exhibit. JOE please write a long comment about your dream about these please!

2 thoughts on “Kachinas and Yei – Everywhere I Go

    • There are well over 400 but Jo Mora was only got to see about 40. The cycles are really long so unless he had 50 years to sit and paint, he’d only get to see a few. From what I read, he was the last non-Hopi allowed to photograph or sketch. When I attended a dance in July 1974, we had to sit on the outskirts, not utter a SOUND the ENTIRE time, not ask questions, and leave the minute it was over.

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