Masterpiece Navajo Single Figure Yei Pictorial Textile


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Once Known Native American Weaver

This Navajo Nation textile is designated as a Yei pictorial textile because of the large Yei figure. The unusual features of this one are the flowers. The Yei figure is very traditional. The background color of the textile is a warm light-tone brown, achieved by carding brown and white wool together. The variations in color of the background result from the weaver carding sufficient wool for a few days' weaving, then carding more for the next few days' needs. This is typical and results in a beautiful background that imitates nature.

The pictorial elements are framed in a dark brown color, resulting in a border of four sections—dark brown, carded color, white, and red. Red is the only color achieved by dyeing.

The textile is an extraordinary one of the Yei style. The somberness one would expect of a ceremonial subject is softened in effect with the addition of flowers, as they provide a feeling of lightness and happiness.

Yei textiles did not exist until around 1920, partially for fear of sickness or death of the weaver for putting the sacred Yei in permanent form. Yei, when created in healing sand paintings, are destroyed at the completion of the healing ceremony. Navajo medicine man Hosteen Klah was the first to weave Yei figures. As a medicine man, he believed he could heal himself if made sick from weaving a Yei figure. After he did not get sick or die becasue of his venture, other weavers began to weave such textiles.

A study by the Navajo Community College several years ago determined that it took approximately 345 hours to weave a rug measuring 3 x 5 feet. That's a little over 43 eight-hour days. Rarely does a weaver work that consistently, but weaves in her spare time. It probably took 3 to 4 months to weave this Yei textile.

The Diné women who weave do not do so for monetary needs but do so as a part of their culture. Weaving is and has always been an integral part of their life. It is an expression of personal pride and identity of their Diné life. The same can be stated of Native basket makers and potters. These artistic endeavors are a part of cultures that have existed for centuries.

Condition: good

Provenance: this Masterpiece Navajo Single Figure Yei Pictorial Textile is from a private Colorado collection

Recommended Reading: James, H. L. Rugs & Posts - The Story of Navajo Weaving and Indian Trading

TAGS: textilesNavajo Nation

Close-up view of a section of this textile.

Once Known Native American Weaver
C4730-32-textile.jpgC4730-32-large2.jpg Click on image to view larger.