Monday, February 13, 2012

Beargrass, Devil's Claw, & Yucca Basket Art

Tohono O’odham (formerly Papago) basket, Personal Collection, circa 1978 

Sandy and I took a short drive from our home into Santa Fe yesterday for a pleasurable day of enlightenment to see the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture's show entitled "Woven Identities," a magnificent exhibition of North American Indian baskets. I was surprised to learn that a few were designed for cooking by first filling with water then dropping in hot stones. Some baskets served as flexible bags and others as hats. I've always found the super fino Ecuadorian straw Panama hats (starting price $3,000) for sale at the Montechristi Hat Company of Santa Fe interesting; but after today's show, I realize they are simply fashionable woven head baskets. 

The Tohono O’odham basket picutured above was crafted from bear grass coils for the warp, and weft from yucca leaves and black devil’s claw.    All three plants are plentiful in the Sonoran desert.   The 1916 image form the Library of Congress below is undoubtedly staged with the addition of many extra baskets, but the scene is otherwise very much like what Sandy and I found typical when we moved onto the reservation in 1978.  Basketry remains the dominant art form of the Tohono O'odham people.