USA: Hopi Katchina dancer

Kachina dancer (front)
Kachina dancer (front)

General description Doll in the form of a white bear katchina dancer

Dimensions 26 cm x 12 cm x 8 cm

Date when acquired 2000s

Original Date Unknown

Source Flea market in Göttingen

 

Kachina (rear view)
Kachina (rear view)

Body

The body appears to be made of a light wood (the parts I can see are certainly made of wood).

 

Clothing

It is most probably a man wearing a white bear costume consisting of a mid-calf fur coat with long sleeves. A steel chain belt is holding the coat closed and it has fours bells attached to it: two at the front and two at the back. The mask is rectangular in form with flaps going down the front and back. The square face is made of brown leather with white eyes painted on it and holes for the dancer to see through. The mask had a grey leather nose with a long moustache made of twigs underneath it. A very long red tongue with a grey central part hangs down to the dancer’s chest. At each side of the headdress are four brown feathers. Two wooden sticks each covered with ribbons are stuck in the top of the headdress: the right has light blue, white and red ribbons, while the left has yellow, white, red and blue ones. The doll is wearing high boots made of black leather and underneath the coat red trousers embroidered with a black check pattern.

 

Accessories

The doll has a dance stick in his right hand painted with three red stripes. It has a narrow strip of fur wrapped around the upper part.

 

Background information

The light wood used for this dancer could be the cottonwood root used for producing traditional Katchina dolls.

Feathers of one or more birds are attached to virtually all costumes even if the spirit depicted is not a bird as they symbolic of clouds and rain, important in the very arid mesa region.

Bear kachinas have such great strength that it is felt they can cure the sick. The bear can have different colours such as blue (Sakwa Honau) or, as in this example, white (Kocha Honau). The bear kachina’s most distinctive features is the presence of a bear footprint on either cheek, which are missing from this doll. So maybe I am wrong and this is another type of katchina.

The colours of the ribbons on the headdress have directional meanings: blue (west or southwest), red (south or southeast), white (east or northeast), yellow (north or northwest). As all the colours are shown together they signify the heavens.

 

Source(s) of information

http://kachina.us/bear.htm (accessed 13 August 2015)

See also Hopi and Kachinas

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