Listen to Tessie Naranjo on art, pottery, and museums
My name is Tessie Naranjo. I’m from Santa Clara Pueblo. [Speaking Native Language]. I have a problem with the word “art” because there is no word in Tewa for art. What that means to me is that you use your hands when you felt like making something. And always in times past, you used your hands to make functional things: bowls for eating from, bowls for ceremonial use.
It was all about function. Today the word “art” comes into the picture because of the time that we live in. And for me, I’m still in the mood, or in the mode, of thinking about creating things as functional. When I do pottery, I prefer micaceous clay because that’s a functional clay. I will make bowls. I will try to make bean pots. I will make other things, but only for function.
I have a struggle with decorative artwork. I have an issue. I used to have an issue, I may still have an issue, with the idea even of a museum and what that stands for. If a museum is to be established, and is established, then I become joyful when I know that it is interacting with tribal communities in some way. So that there is a relationship that is established. But just for decorative displays…I…I cannot go there. I cannot.
The woman or women who created this work may have descendants in more than one contemporary Native-language community. In an effort to be both respectful and accurate, Mia has left this label untranslated.
Swirls of concentric circles adorn this pot made by a Hohokam female artist a thousand years ago. The Hohokam people lived in the desert Southwest, in an area that includes modern-day Phoenix. They created miles of sophisticated canals to irrigate their crops. These irrigation canals were so well made that they provided the structure upon which Phoenix’s water system is based to this day. The Hohokam art of ceramic making, with its durability and variety, was also highly complex, developed during the same period as their earliest canals.