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Sandpaintings

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Navajo sandpainting has its roots in traditional Navajo medicine and religious ceremony. Sandpaintings are an integral part in Navajo healing ceremonies. Medicine men must learn all of the incredibly detailed aspects of the sandpainting; the holy images, their placement, exact colors, and accompanying guardians in addition to all of the proper songs, prayer offerings, rituals and sequence of events. This knowledge is rarely written, but is passed down through apprenticeship. For this reason many of the old ceremonies have been lost forever. The first sand painting aspect of Navajo religious ceremony, because of its detail, artistry, colour, and significance, pi Paintings depicting scenes from Navajo religious tradition are created by medicine men during Navajo ceremonies, made overnight to be destroyed before dawn. The medicine man, Hosteen Klah, was the first to reproduce the sacred sandpainting images for sale rather than for ceremony in the form of woven rugs. Certain key parts of the ceremonial image were omitted or rearranged. The first Navajo sandpainting successfully made permanent on a board for sale was created in the 1950’s by a medicine man named Fred Stevens. The idea was suggested to him by Rex Bollin, a trader at Box Canyon, Arizona and the process used to adhere the sand to the board was developed in collaboration with Mr. Stevens, Mr. Bollin, and Arizona artist George DeVille who had been using sand as a painting medium for several years. The result was so successful many other Navajo artists began to follow suit. Today Navajo sandpaintings using the medium of sand in colors ground from a variety of local rock and stone, is artfully manipulated into extremely detailed and beautiful paintings depicting Navajo deities as well as still life subjects.