The People’s Tapestry: Weaving Tradition in Navajo Culture
The Moab Museum is honored to present The People's Tapestry: Weaving Tradition in Navajo Culture, a celebration of the magnificent weavings created by the Diné (which means "the people" in Navajo). Diné textiles reflect the concept of hózhóó, or balance and harmony, which is reflected in the primarily symmetrical designs. Balance and harmony bring beauty and a sense of well-being. The People's Tapestry provides a space for storytelling by The People through weaving demonstrations and approximately 100 textiles displayed in the spirit of historic trading posts across the four corners region.
Members enjoy the exhibition opening reception that took place mid-June, 2023. Harvey Leake delivered opening remarks alongside Museum Curator Tara Beresh and Museum Director Forrest Rodgers.
"With beauty before me, it is woven
With beauty behind me, it is woven
With beauty above me, it is woven
With beauty below me, it is woven
And in beauty, it is finished."
-- Navajo (Diné) Weaver's Song
Historic photographs highlight weaving scenes from centuries ago, while contemporary images of heritage sheep shearing remind guests of a deeply rooted tradition that thrives still, today. Interpretive text introduces historical events that influenced weaving styles, and the symbolism inherent in their designs. The significance of Diné textiles transcends artistic expression; weavers beautify their world through the spiritual act of weaving and integrate their art into the web of everyday life. The Navajo (Diné) weaver's song declares, "With beauty, it is woven." We hope that the spirit and aesthetic of these powerful pieces will inspire you to experience the land and the tradition of the Diné beyond the walls of the Moab Museum.
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"Our sister took a black jug from the corner and went out to the milk the goats so we could have fresh milk our supper. I looked at the blanket on the loom, on which she and mother had been weaving all day, and I really looked at it for the first time. I thought how hard it must be to count the threads of the warp all day and put in each colored thread of wool so the design would come out right. There, by the blanket, were all the colored balls of yarn that they had washed, carded, dyed, and spun. I thought how foolish I had been when I told my brother that our mother and sister had nothing to do but sit by the hogan fire, weave blankets, and cook. Tho cooking must be hard, and the blanket weaving even harder." -- Wolfkiller, a Navajo (Diné) shepherd c. 1910.
"Navajo Children: Weaving the Future"
The People's Tapestry features contributions from the Utah Department of Arts and Museums' Traveling Exhibit Program. Navajo Children: Weaving the Future showcases weavings completed by young and talented Navajo children living in the Navajo Nation. The collection is on loan from Adopt an Elder Program.
Hand made rugs and blankets have always been an important part of Native American culture and economy. Weaving techniques and patterns have traditionally been passed down from mothers and grandmothers to daughters.
Modern lifestyles have threatened this art form. Tourism, and economic development from Adopt an Elder Program have given this art form renewed interest. Adopt an Elder Program sponsors rug sales directly from the weavers who get one hundred percent of the profits.
Experience the Process...
We are excited to welcome several Master Navajo (Diné) Weavers throughout 2023.
On Thursday and Friday, July 13 and 14, from 10 am – 4 pm, master weaver Anita Hathale will demonstrate her weaving technique in the Moab Museum’s South Gallery. Hathale was born to the Water Flow Together clan and was raised in the traditional Navajo (Diné) way. When Hathale first began weaving, she sought guidance from her father who would perform a Beauty Way Ceremony for her with a “rainbow prayer.” Hathale now weaves up to 11 and 12 hours a day and her style has evolved from traditional patterns to her own original motifs. Hathale is unique from other weavers for her open designs – large areas of one color. Stop by the Museum to observe Hathale’s process.
Maxine Nez, whose family centers around Chinle, Arizona, comes from a tradition of weavers. Nez loves to experiment with any kind of art and/or craft, and now has perfected a new type of Navajo rug with old roots, the Churro Wool Tufted Navajo Rug. Nez and her father, Joe Lee Benally, will be at the Moab Museum on Friday and Saturday, August 25 and 26, from 10 am to 4 pm for weaving demonstrations in the South Gallery.
On Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16 from 11 am – 2 pm each day, Colleen Biakeddy, a master weaver raised in Big Mountain, Arizona, will demonstrate her weaving craft in the Museum South Gallery. Attendees will have the opportunity to watch the process, ask questions, and gain a deepened understanding of weaving.
Roy Kady is a master weaver, who first learned weaving and sheep herding from his mother when growing up in Goat Spring, Arizona on the outskirts of Teec Nos Pos. He is renowned today for his masterful weaving and versatile designs: from traditional patterns to innovative pictorials. He has advocated for the continued vitality of flocks of Navajo Churro sheep through involvement with numerous organizations and has shared his passion and expertise for weaving through teaching and demonstrating both regionally and across the country. Check out the full listing of programs and events throughout Kady's time at the Museum below!
This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of local and regional collectors—individuals who recognized The People’s Tapestry’s as an important story about cultural communities in our region and regarded the Moab Museum as a trustworthy steward of their beautiful Diné textiles. We extend our gratitude to the patrons and collectors whose beloved pieces appear in the exhibition: Kel Darnell and Marc McDonald, Harvey Leake and The John and Louisa Wetherill Collection, Steve Munsell, Jo Hays, K. Eastman, Ann Norman, and several who wished to remain anonymous.
The story that is central to The People’s Tapestry belongs to The People, and without Navajo storytelling, demonstrations, and patience, the heart of this exhibition would be missing. We would specifically like to thank Navajo Master Weavers, Anita Hathale, Roy Kady, Maxine Nez, Joe Lee Benally, and Colleen Biakeddy for their wisdom and willingness to share their stories and talents with Museum staff and the community at large.
The Moab Museum also thanks the Utah Department of Arts and Museums for their curation of the traveling exhibition, Navajo Children: Weaving the Future, which has become a delightful component of The People’s Tapestry, and Moab local. Additionally, we thank Moab Museum Guest Services Associate, Meg E. Bigler, for the enthusiastic loan of her loom and contemporary weaving tools which provide a valuable tactile learning experience for all visitors to the exhibition.