Kachina Doll (Polimana)
Arts of the Americas
On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
In the southwestern United States, a supernatural being that represents a life-force or embodies a natural phenomenon such as the sun, the moon, a plant, or an animal is called a koko by the Zuni and a katsina (commonly anglicized as “kachina”) by the Hopi. Such beings have the power to control rainfall, crop growth, and fertility; to cure and protect; and to act as messengers between the gods and human beings. Carved kachina figures, also known as kachina dolls, are representations of these spirits and can have a sacred or an educational purpose. During some ceremonies, the carvings are given to community members to reward virtuous behavior, recognize a recent marriage, or teach children about religion. In the 1800s, a lively market for the carvings developed among non-Native collectors and tourists, giving rise to the elaborate art form that flourishes today.
Wood, pigment, cotton, feather
late 19th century
Museum Expedition 1904, Museum Collection Fund
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Hopi Pueblo. Kachina Doll (Polimana), late 19th century. Wood, pigment, cotton, feather, 21 7/8 x 9 1/4 in. (55.5 x 23.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1904, Museum Collection Fund, 04.297.5592. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 04.297.5592_PS9.jpg)
overall, 04.297.5592_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
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Tall, stately female with elaborate tablita (headdress). Her arms and forearms are broken off. This complex Kachina may take on different personae. She may become Polimana, Butterfly Maiden, when she performs during the March Angl'wa dance ceremonies. Or she may be a troupe of four Corn-grinding maidens during the same ceremonies. Both performances are prayers for rain and bountiful harvest. Lastly she can perform a special dance anytime if sponsored by a kiva.
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