Hopi Tasavu Quasi Clown Carving

C4050H-clown2.jpg

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Carver Unknown

There is a category of Hopi Clowns that has been named Piptuyakyamu.  They represent a group of Hopi men who band together to perform impromptu skits for the amusement of the people. They are not sacred clowns, as are the Koosa, nor are they equivalent to the Koyemsi (Mud Heads).  They do not have a prescribed appearance except for painting their faces white, and may appear in any dress of choice. They dress according to the skit being performed. Their antics are usually something related to happenings at the pueblo.  Their skits are usually presented in the most obscene manner possible. -Wright 2004

Accompanying the Piptuyakyamu are other personages that have been named Quasi Clowns because no other name fits their demeanor. One of these is the Tasavu or Navajo Clown. Unlike the Piptuyakyamu, who always appear in different costumes, the Tasavu always appears in the same dress, that imitating a Navajo (*Diné). It is in this personage that this clown mocks and makes fun of their neighbor, the Navajo.

This carving of a Tasavu Clown presents the Navajo wearing what would be white homespun cotton trousers.  He normally carries a gourd rattle in one hand and evergreen bough in the other, however, this carving has neither.  He has a medicine bag hanging off his shoulder and his hair is tied in a chonga in the back. His face is painted with the typical black stripe seen regularly on this clown.


Condition: this Hopi Tasavu Quasi Clown Carving is in very good condition

Provenance: from the extensive katsina doll collection of a family from Oklahoma.  It was originally purchased from Case Trading Post of the Wheelwright Museum of Santa Fe in 1960.

Reference: Wright, Barton. Clowns of the Hopi – Tradition Keepers and Delight Makers

*Note: when we say Diné, as opposed to Navaho or Navajo, we are referring to the people and not the government.  Since 1969, their government refers to itself as the Navajo Nation.

Relative Links: HopiNavajo, Katsina-Kachina

Close up view of this Kachina.

Carver Unknown
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