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Hopi and Zuni Pueblos Katsina dolls from the estate of Tom Mittler

August 05, 2013 until February 28, 2014


The clowns have been called the Delight Makers and indeed that is one of their purposes. They make the Hopi and the New Mexico pueblo people laugh, sometimes at mockery of themselves and other times at mockery of non-Indians. They are not Katsinas but do accompany the Katsinas during dances. Most New Mexico pueblos ask non-pueblo people to depart before the arrival of the clowns. They see it as a special occasion for them alone.

At Hopi, all the villages permit non-Indians to witness the antics of the clowns. When it appears that the clowns are acting up in a humorous manner, they actually are doing so with a purpose. It is their intent to teach the Hopi to maintain their cultural cohesion and preserve their status quo. In their antics, they are actually illustrating to the Hopi acts that are not acceptable, such as gluttony and deviant behavior. What the clowns act out is what it is to be non-Hopi. Sometimes this can be quite humorous. It is their responsibility to be the keeper of tradition.

The Hopi have four groups of clowns: the Tsukuwimkya, the Paiyakyamu or Koosa, the Koyemsi, and the Piptuyakyamu. The first and last are native to the Hopi and the other two have been borrowed from the New Mexico pueblos. The most famous is the Koosa, known as the Koshari, and referred to as the Hano Clown, after the name of the Tewa Village, Hano, at First Mesa, because that is where this clown first appeared with the arrival of the Tewa Indians in the early 18th century.

The dress of the Koshari is strictly enforced. The horns are of sheepskin stuffed with grass and the tips are tasseled with crinkled cornhusk strips. They are painted with charcoal and kaolin. The body is painted black with corn smut, but soot can also be used. Kaolin provides the white stripes. They wear old and worn moccasins, frazzled breechclouts, and worn blankets wrapped around their hips. A pouch of cornmeal hangs around their necks.

The Koshari appear only during the spring and summer dances and then only in the afternoon. Their official entrance to the plaza is always over the roof tops, to represent their coming over the clouds to the Hopi mesas. They pop up at the edge of a roof and announce their presence with a loud whoop and much ruckus. From then, they began their show.

Excerpted from Clowns of the Hopi: Tradition Keepers and Delight Makers by Barton Wright.


The collection of Hopi and Zuni Pueblos Katsina dolls is from the estate of Tom Mittler, a former resident of Michigan and Santa Fe. The collection consists of 44 katsina dolls and Koshari from the two pueblos-some from the early 20th century and others from the late 20th century. Distinctively, this exhibit includes 10 Hopi Koshari or Hano Clown Katsina dolls. Tom Mittler was an avid collector of many things, one of which was Katsina dolls. His taste in Katsina dolls was impeccable and this small selection is evidence of that. All of these were collected in 1980s and 1990s  and each is signed with the name of the artist. Take a look at the photographs and read our description of each if you have time. I am sure you will enjoy this wonderful exhibit.

Last Day! SHOW CLOSING TONIGHT - closing reception 4-7 pm.