Woven Identities: Basketry Art of Western North America by Valerie K. Verzuh

  • Whalers' hats, c. 1900.

    Museum of New Mexico Press
  • Storage basket, c. 1930, Hopi

    Museum of New Mexico Press
  • Gourd basket, 2012, Tohono O'odham, Terrol Dew Johnson

    Museum of New Mexico Press
  • Fancy carrying basket, c. 1900, Tlingit, Artist known as Mary.

    Museum of New Mexico Press
 

Woven Identities: Basketry Art of Western North America
Valerie K. Verzuh,
219 pages, hardcover:
$34.95,
Museum of New Mexico Press, 2013

Few Native American languages have a word for "art." Basket-weaving is not considered art, in the sense of work made for display; rather, as one Apache elder says, it is the creation of "pieces of life to see, touch and feel." Whether designed for food-gathering, ceremonies or other uses, baskets are "culture bearers," transmitting traditions, values and knowledge, says author Valerie Verzuh. The baskets in Verzuh's Woven Identities: Basketry Art of Western North America come from the Santa Fe Museum's 1,500-piece collection of Indian Arts and Culture and feature exquisite examples from 60 tribes, woven between 1879 and 1930. Verzuh examines materials, techniques, form, function and ornamentation, seeking each basket's "woven identity" – the story of where, when, why and by whom it was made, as well as the mysterious life force the weaver delivered during its creation – the Native basket-weavers' true version of "art."

America Meredith
America Meredith
Jun 25, 2014 10:35 AM
We have words for "art" in our languages, and not just a few of them. For a sampling of American Indigenous languages' words for "art," naspasinahikewin ᓇᐢᐸᓯᓇᐦᐃᑫᐃᐧᐣ is Plains and Woods Cree, teko porã is Guaraní, yäpa is Aymara, kapchiy is Quechua, tōltēcayōtl is Nahuatl, Eqqumiitsuliorneq is Kalaallisut, ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏙᏗ ditlilosdodi is Cherokee, nak-ahakv is Muscogee Creek. Kindly put that tired, inaccurate trope to rest. We have words for art — First American Art Magazine.