PARIS.- Like the Surrealists before him in the 1930s, a connoisseur with peerless taste gathered, over the 30 years he lived in the USA, this unique collection of Katsinam masks. These ceremonial masks, most of which date back to the late 19th or early 20th century, are among the most important Katsinam spirits of the Hopi pantheon. Each is classified in the reference book that identified the Katsinam in 1949, then in a new edition in 1959 (COLTON, Harold S., Hopi Kachina Dolls with a key to their identification).
In the great deserts of the state of Arizona surrounded by high mesas, the Hopi Indians still practice ritual ceremonies to mark the seasons. By wearing the corresponding mask et clothing, the dancer embodies the spirits whose help is needed to regulate the rains and ensure a good crop of beans and maize.
The Katsinam are spirits or personifications of things in the real world: they are the spirits of minerals, game, domestic animals, plants, trees, wind, the dead
Therefore, they are not gods but messengers who are asked to exert their beneficial powers to help men live in harmony.
The idea that a people would dedicate so much time and energy to the rise of celestial bodies fascinated our collector. In his collection, the CROW MOTHER mask, Angwusnasomtaqa in the Hopi language, held pride of place, and he had to wait over 20 years to attend the Powamu rituals in early February, the only time the mother of all the Katsinam appears in the village. By his own admission, you have to see the masks in dances to fully appreciate them.
The art and philosophy of the Hopi are intimately linked to the long history of this people.
The terrifying TSAKWAYNA or CHAKWAINA mask (He-who-screams), dated 1870/1880, represents the ancestor of the ASA clan, the black Moor Estebanico who arrived in 1539, just before the Conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado initiated his conquest of New Mexico. It can be admired during the Kiva dances in January and during line dancing in the village plaza.
It was their « Hilili-i-i-i » cry that made them famous and gave them their name. The Kachina sorcerer mask (left) also bears a solar disk, while the second mask (right) has two symbols of rain clouds at the back.
The Left Handed Kachina is so called because he holds his bow in the right hand and his arrows in the left hand.
The fearsome KOKOPÖLÖ MANA, « the Robber Fly Girl » simulates copulation with her victim who is rendered impotent for one year.
The KOOYEMSI sacred Mudhead Clown is both the supreme mediator between good and evil and an insolent buffoon prone to scatological pranks. Always surprising, he entertains everyone.
HEMISKATSINMANA, with her ochre-yellow half-mask, wears her hair in the squash blossom style of maidens.
The WUYAK-KU-ITA helmet mask takes part in the POWAMU Bean Dance with ogres and terrifies the clowns.
The black felt KOKOSORI mask represents the Little Fire God Kachina, and is the exact replica of SHULAWITZI, the Zuni Little Fire God.
The PAATANG Squash Kachina mask, the great runner of the 1st mesa, is a hollowed-squash with black stripes against a green background.
The SITULILÜ mask, the « Zuni rattlesnake kachina », is crowned with turkey feathers.