Friday, November 16, 2007

On Thursday, we tackled the freeways of Phoenix where people routinely drive at 70 miles per hour to visit the Heard Musuem's collection of native art. The exhibits were fascinating, pairing ancestral Pueblan pieces with pottery from the turn of the century with more contemporary pottery.

For the first time, we learned of the Pueblo Revolt. When the Spanish came to the southwest in 1540, approximately 40,000 to 50,000 Puebloan peoples lived in 80-100 separate communities; by 1696, about 14,000 lived in 22 communities. As in other areas in North and South America, European diseases took a heavy toll as did forced labor. Religious conversion was a primary goal of the conquistadors; natives risked charges of witchcraft and burnings at the stake if they followed their own religions. In 1680, the Puebloans revolted, driving the Spanish from their homelands, a rebellion that lasted 12 years, until the Spanish restored "order" in 1692.

Another interactive exhibit documented the U.S. attempt through the 1960s to assimilate the Pueblo peoples by forcibly removing children to dormitory schools where they were not allowed to speak their native language or practice their beliefs. In some ways, this makes the survival of Puebloan culture more important, for through the pottery, weaving, and silverwork, and through conscious efforts to preserve and protect designs, techniques and materials, the Puebloan people are retaining and strengthening their culture.

After walking our feet off, we relaxed in the museum patio cafe, enjoying pozole and cool water as we sat under the ironwood trees. On reflection, my favorite pieces from the museum were those that compared several generations of work on the same theme. Birds, parrots from Mexico, decorated great communal bread and stew bowls; the butterfly bowl above is dated 1976.

Allen was fascinated by a mug decorated with a snake pattern; the potter put small stones in the base of the mug to simulate the rattlesnake's rattles. These three mugs (about 1300) show differences in Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde pottery. We also studied a seasonal map showing the cycle of Katsina dancers and spirit guides to help us understand the complexity of beliefs and how they shaped the Hopi communities. Allen likes Mudhead, while I'm drawn to Crow Mother and Blue Corn Maiden.

And in the very last room, when we were tired and feeling we could learn no more, we found this clay mermaid from Mexico, which fits right into the stories I'm working on.

Then, last night, desert thunderstorms, lightening crackled across the sky in great bolts. This morning, sunshine, clean, clear air, and we're headed back into Phoenix to go to a petroglyph musuem. Make it a great day! Beth

No comments: