Celebrate the 29th Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture at the Museum of Northern Arizona

Celebrate the 29th Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture at the Museum of Northern Arizona

The Olla Maidens and the Cellicion Dancers, will present cultural songs and dances which are frequently alluded to as a request for it to rain and to nurture the harvest / Kobby Dagan via Shutterstock

 

The indigenous culture of the Zuni is deeply grounded in agriculture and food practices going back thousands of years. This coming weekend, the yearly Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture, in collaboration with the Museum of Northern Arizona, will commemorate these significant traditions, including the art, music, and dance that blossomed from them.

A lot of the ideas and representation in the art of Zuni emanate from the traditions of agriculture, as stated by Curtis Quam, who is the cultural instructor for the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, which is also a co-sponsor of the Zuni Festival held every year at the museum.

Dances and Gardening for the Zuni

In the course of the festival, two dance troupes, the Olla Maidens and the Cellicion Dancers, will present cultural songs and dances which are frequently alluded to as a request for it to rain and to nurture the harvest, for excellent cultivating conditions as well as a good harvest. The drawings in their pottery represent rain, clouds, various land formations, and essential crops.

Quam explained, “A lot of how we express ourselves, whether it be songs or prayer or art, a lot of that is really built in our culture and our place in it. A lot of it is that to survive you need water, you need to eat. A lot of the expression in the art, it shows the uses of land. The very geometric designs you see in pottery – they are expressions of how we want to see life, of water, of good crops, of birds.”

The cultural instructor will illustrate how to put up a Zuni Waffle Garden in the course of the Zuni Festival on May 25 and 26, 2019. The design of the Zuni Waffle Garden requires forming mud walls that surround narrow square plots for growing plants. The mud walls shield the young seedlings from the rough winds and a unique soil compound aids in guiding the water to the roots of the plants.

According to www.williamsnews.com, Quam said that growing various plants and vegetables for eating is also a means to bond with the community and to expand one’s connections. The harvested crops are shared and then initiate moments of mass assembly. This tradition gets even more significant in contemporary times, when it’s effortless to become detached from other people and from our source of food. Quam remembered conversing with one of the surviving women who maintained the tradition of gardening with a customary waffle garden, which also requires watering the plants manually. A nice person volunteered to install a free drip-line system for her waffle garden, but she politely turned it down.

The instructor also explained that the woman said that she had to water her plants manually so she could get to know them better. Quam remarked that when he heard that, he thought how wonderful it was and that it made sense. He added, “This is a connection we have and it’s the same for people and our relationship in our community as well - we have to maintain our relationship and we have to do it face to face.”

The yearly Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture, in collaboration with the Museum of Northern Arizona, will commemorate the significant traditions of the indigenous culture of the Zuni / Alizada Studios via Shutterstock

 

Traditional Zuni Food, Arts and Crafts

Since many people tend to connect over food, two up and coming artists have been collaborating to return the traditional foods over to the contemporary age. Kandis Quam and Elroy Natachu Jr. have been meticulously interpreting the “pinchful of this, handful of that” -- classic recipes handed down throughout their generations in better organized and unified recipes. Both of the young artists will give demonstrations on ancestral food over the course of the festival.

A lot of their traditional recipes seem illusively easy and uncomplicated, like parched corn, which consists of only two items: salt water and corn. Changing those two basic ingredients into a crispy, delicious snack that will crack and ruin your teeth is a lengthy and precise procedure, like strictly ripening the corn under the proper conditions, then cooking it under extreme heat.

The most available recipe is for making wheat pudding since the ingredients can be purchased at the grocer’s and the pudding is conveniently adjusted.

Both of the young, talented artists will also be bringing their artworks and will observe how the customary designs in the antique arts connect back to the customs and traditions of farming and food making.

The arts have thrived in Zuni, with delicately crafted pottery, stone-carving, and silverwork acknowledged globally for its elegant style and design. The Zuni Festival is a unique chance for people to get to know the artists and observe them while they work, as stated by Curtis Quam.

According to musnaz.org, the festival this year will be extending throughout the museum campus, to incorporate tours of the Easton Collection Center, interactive gardening workshops, and MNA research presentations. The festival will transpire from May 25 and 26, Saturday and Sunday respectively, from 9:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon. Discounted admission will be given to tribal members provided that they have proof of tribal affiliation.