This vibrant and beautiful sand painting was created by Harvey R. Begaye, a member of the Diné people in Shiprock, New Mexico. Shiprock is in San Juan County, New Mexico on the Navajo reservation. The painting portrays a Diné man garbed as a Yei, which means God in the Navajo language, with his buckskin mask, leather bandolier (medicine bag), turquoise necklace and what appears to be a concho belt. He also wears a long fur pelt, red moccasins and carries a fish in one hand and strands of maize in the other. The jagged monolith of Shiprock rises in the distance over the high-desert plains of the Navajo reservation.
This fascinating artwork is ink stamped with Mr. Begaye's name and address on the back. He has also written in pencil on the back: "Yei-Bi-Chai Dancer" Shiprock, N. Mex. "YEI" FOOD COLLECTOR FROM HOGAN TO HOGAN. A hogan is the traditional Navajo hut of logs and earth. The Yei-Bi-Chai (or Yébîchai) ceremony is a nine-day one, with many dancers, some personating gods like this one.
Sand paintings originated for use in healing ceremonies and were destroyed at the end of the ritual. In the late 1940's or early 1950's, Navajo sand paintings began to be "permatized" for commercial sale. (Authentic Navajo sand paintings made for ceremonial purposes are never sold and seldom ever seen by outsiders.) After particle board was invented during World War II, it became the typical surface used for these paintings. They are made by trickling colored sands through one's fingers onto the epoxy covered board.
This work measures 13 1/8 inches square and weighs a little over 2 pounds. It's unframed, meant to be hung as is, with a hanging wire on the back, although it looks just as handsome propped on a shelf or easel. The condition is excellent and with its traditional and contemporary elements, this sand painting will enhance any decor from modern to Southwest.
Note: Although we have used Navajo as the common name of this Native American nation, their self-proclaimed and preferred name is Diné, which means "Children of God." The word "Navajo" comes from a Spanish word meaning "stealer."