Navajo Textile Depicting Powerful Imagery of the Yei

C4634A-rug.jpg

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Weaver Unknown
  • Category: Navajo Textiles
  • Origin: Diné of the Navajo Nation
  • Medium: wool, yarn, dye
  • Size: 5’1” x 2’9”
  • Item # C4634A
  • Price: $3600

The textile depicts the powerful imagery of the Yei, the supernatural beings of the Diné of the Navajo Nation. There are 6 front facing Yei with faces concealed behind round blue masks. Each of the six have feathers on their heads. Each Yei has a different body color, but each wears a green ruff around its neck. Each Yei is dressed in a colorful and decorative kilt and each wears a concho belt and a nugget necklace with jacla. Hanging from both arms of each Yei is a pendant with triangles of varying colors. The single figure with a white face is the one known as Talking God.

Yei are gods in the Diné of the Navajo Nation pantheon and are traditionally depicted in sand paintings. Yeibichai are masked human dancers impersonating the Yei deities.

Creation of the Yei and Yeibichai in anything but ceremonial sand paintings were forbidden before the 20th century. Since these figures are destroyed before sunset during a healing ceremony, it was not allowed that they be created in permanent form especially in an item to be sold to non-Indians. It was strongly believed that serious consequences would befall anyone who wove these figures in a rug. Gradually, this superstition was overcome. It was the permanence of creating the sacred figures in textiles that made their weaving controversial among the Diné.

Pictorial textiles such as this had their beginning in the Four Corners area of New Mexico around 1910, particularly from Shiprock and Lukachukai regions. Earlier Yeibicheii pictorial textiles featured single large front-facing figures. The Yeibicheii textiles being woven today normally feature Navajo impersonating the Yei in the dance, not of the Holy People themselves. The Yeibichai dancers are normally pictured in profile, not front facing. The Yei figures are generally pictured in the front facing image, as illustrated in this textile.

Because of the significance of the Yei to the Diné, it is generally suggested that such textiles be displayed in a respectful manner such as hanging on a wall, not used as a floor rug.

A useful way of remembering which is warp and which is weft is: 'one of them goes from weft to wight'.

Warp and Weft:  In weaving, the weft (sometimes woof) is the term for the thread or yarn which is drawn through, inserted over-and-under, the lengthwise warp yarns that are held in tension on a frame or loom to create cloth. Warp is the lengthwise or longitudinal thread in a roll, while weft is the transverse thread. A single thread of the weft, crossing the warp, is called a pick. Terms do vary (for instance, in North America, the weft is sometimes referred to as the fill or the filling yarn).  Each individual warp thread in a fabric is called a warp end or end.  The weft is a thread or yarn usually made of spun fibre. The original fibres used were wool, flax or cotton. Today, man-made fibres are often used in weaving. Because the weft does not have to be stretched on a loom in the way that the warp is, it can generally be less strong.  The weft is threaded through the warp using a "shuttle", air jets or "rapier grippers." Hand looms were the original weaver's tool, with the shuttle being threaded through alternately raised warps by hand.  A useful way of remembering which is warp and which is weft is: 'one of them goes from weft to wight'.  -Wikipedia


Condition: very good condition for a textile dating to the mid-twentieth century.

Provenance: this Navajo Textile Depicting Powerful Imagery of the Yei is from the collection of a gentleman from California

Recommended Reading: The Navajo Weaving Tradition 1650 to the Present by Alice Kaufman and Christopher Selser.

TAGS: textilesNavajo NationMary Kessie, Navajo Weaver

Alternate close-up view of a section of this Navajo Yei textile.

 

Weaver Unknown
  • Category: Navajo Textiles
  • Origin: Diné of the Navajo Nation
  • Medium: wool, yarn, dye
  • Size: 5’1” x 2’9”
  • Item # C4634A
  • Price: $3600

C4634A-rug.jpgC4634A-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.