CMA Stories

6 Fun Facts about Kachina Dolls

Celebrate the diverse cultures of Indigenous Peoples with CMA on Sunday, November 12. There will be arts and musical workshops inspired by traditional and contemporary arts practices within the Indigenous community. Let’s learn together!

We will be sculpting sacred animals of Indigenous mythology in the Clay Bar, making upcycled shields in our Water Protectors workshop in the Fine Arts Studio, and MUCH MORE!

Enjoy an interactive workshop by the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, a nonprofit organization founded and maintained by Native American artists and educators residing in the New York City area. Since 1994, the Council has been dedicated to educating the general public about Native American heritage through song, dance, theater, works of art and other cultural forms of expression. Join us for a traditional song and dance at 12:00 pm and 1:30 pm.

You may remember from our summer exhibit, Maker, Maker, an artist, named Brad Khalhamer who handcrafts sculptures inspired by Native American Katsina dolls. In preparation for the festival, we have gathered several fun facts about Kachina/Katsina dolls:

1. The word kachina refers to powerful, spiritual beings of the Pueblo Villages of the American Southwest.

2. Masked kachinas make appearances during tribal ceremonies, bringing different kinds of blessings specific to each kachina.

3. Each kachina spirit has a different type of power. Kachina dolls are physical representations of these spirits.

4. They are usually carved out of cottonwood. Afterwards, they are painted and dressed in the same costume the kachina spirits would be.

5. You may find them dressed in different types of colors, jewelry, feathers, hair, plants, and other objects that help us identify the spirits.

6. These dolls were used to teach children about the spirits and the world they live in.

Facts are from  Native Paths: American Indian Art from the Collection of Charles and Valerie Diker
By Janet Catherine Berlo, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1998
Images: Brad Kahlhamer, Next Level Figures (installation view), 2013, photos by Will Ellis

This event is made possible thanks to the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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