Katsinam from the IARC Collection

The Indian Arts Research Center houses a collection of more than 600 figures, which includes carvings primarily from Hopi, but also from the pueblos of Zuni, Acoma, San Juan, and the Diné (Navajo Nation). The figures represent a variety of twentieth-century katsinam, including more than 100 figures collected by Henry R. Voth at Hopi in the 1890s. Voth, a Mennonite missionary, lived at the Hopi villages; his writings about the Hopi people are considered important early ethnology on Hopi culture. The katsinam Voth collected are among the earliest and finest examples of these figures.

Taawakatsina (Sun Katsina)Taawakatsina (Sun Katsina)Artist: Marshall Lomakema. Circa 1950-1970. SAR.1989-7-84.

The Hopi (and other groups participating in the katsinam culture) believe that each thing in the world—each tree, mountain, animal, human, and so on—has its own spirit or soul, its own katsina. The people who don katsinam regalia are understood to impersonate the true katsinam.

Children and youths are initiated into the culture and the meaning of the katsinam in a years-long graduated instruction. This indoctrination begins in infancy with small cradle figures. Thereafter, boys are educated in the kivas and can themselves train to be katsinam impersonators; girls, however, are excluded from this direct instruction and learn about the culture from the series of figures carved traditionally by male relatives.

It is taboo for people of the katsina culture to view a figure to which he or she has not yet been indoctrinated. In addition, the Hopi consider that some katsinam should never be on public display. For these reasons, IARC has developed more sensitive storage and display facilities for this collection.

Note on Terminology

The Hopi figures are properly referred to as tihü, while the people of Zuni Pueblo refer to their carvings as kokko figures. IARC uses the more general term katsina (plural katsinam) to identify most of the figures in this collection (the terms “figures” or “carvings” are preferred to “dolls”). This term is used in preference to the commonly used kachina because it more closely approximates the Hopi pronunciation of the word.

Take the opportunity to get a 360-degree view of some of the magnificent items from the IARC’s katsina collection.

Apple’s QuickTime player is required for viewing in 360 degrees.

Taawakatsina (Sun Katsina)Taawakatsina (Sun Katsina)Artist: Marshall Lomakema
Koyaala KatsinaKoyaala KatsinaArtist: Lowell Talahaskoma
To’tsa Katsina (Hummingbird Katsina)To’tsa Katsina (Hummingbird Katsina)Artist: Unidentified
Huuhwa Katsina (Crosslegged Katsina)Huuhwa Katsina (Crosslegged Katsina)Artist: Myron Orris
Warrior MouseWarrior MouseArtist: Armand Fritz
HemiskatsinaHemiskatsinaArtist: Henry Shelton
Ogre KatsinaOgre Katsina (3-D)Artist: Philbert HonanieImportant Note: To preserve the 3-D effect, this 360 degree view is larger in file size (5MB).