Art exemplifies life for tribe

As part of American Indian Awareness Month, two world-renowned artists presented their experiences on the culture and art of the Zuni Pueblo Tribe of Arizona.

On Friday in 007 Phillips Hall, tribe members Alex Seowtewa and his son, Ken, gave a presentation on Zuni artwork, including murals depicting tribe ceremonies such as the Summer Rain Dance.

Ken Seowtewa said art is very important to the Zuni people. An ancient tribe-defining piece is visible only at specific times of the year in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

Engraved in a cliff face, large swirls and spirals are visible when the sun shines at a specific angle during the winter and summer soltices.

He said pictography is also a common art form for the tribe.

Made with obsidian or bone, pictographs depict figures from ceremonial dances to an image of the famous Geronimo, who the tribe regards as a symbol of strength and courage, Ken Seowtewa said.

He said the circular underground rooms known as Kivas, used as religious ceremonial chambers, are among the tribe’s most widely reccognized works of art. The oldest one known reaches 90 feet in diameter.

“They symbolize as men coming back into Mother Earth’s womb,” Ken Seowtewa said.

Alex Seowtewa said that the images he paints come solely from his mind.

“I don’t use a camera,” he said. “I just study it in my mind.”

After seeing the samples of the paintings, sophomore Erica Nunn said the figures in the murals showed a lot of human likeness.

“The paintings were beautiful,” she said. “I can’t believe that an artist can make them so lifelike.”