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Kachina Dolls & Carvings

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The Native American Kachina dolls that we think of today are finely detailed woodcarvings depicting Hopi Kachina dolls and other Pueblo deities and sacred dancers. The Native American Indian Artisans of the Hopi Pueblo are known for their fine pueblo pottery and beautiful Indian baskets but as to the art of Kachina doll carving, only the Hopi have made the Kachina doll into the art form it is today. “Kachina” is a Hopi word with many meanings and is probably best defined as 'sacred' but it also describes the masked dancers of the Hopi acting as spirit messengers at ceremonies during certain parts of the year. The Kachinas perform the sacred rites of the kiva and bring blessings upon the Hopi people.

History of Kachina Dolls

The first Kachina dolls were not the elaborate carvings of today, but were simple flat dolls painted to accurately depict the deities they represented as a teaching tool for the children. Kachina dolls are still used for this purpose, but in the last century the Hopi Kachina doll has evolved into its own Native American art form exemplified by fine detail and craftsmanship in the carving and motion of the subject. The Hopi have opened the trail of fine wood carving for other tribes such as the Navajo whose woodcarvings are also represented here. Traditionally, Native American Kachina dolls have been a less expensive alternative to the Hopi doll, using cloth, fur, and feathers as a substitute for the full wood carving. These dolls are still available and are an affordable alternative, but there are now a handful of Navajo carvers doing all wood carvings of antique Kachina dolls as well as representations from Navajo religion and ceremony. These carvings are finely crafted and as valuable as some of the finest Hopi antique Kachina dolls, but only a Hopi doll, hand carved in cottonwood root, can be called a true Kachina.