Costume & Textiles Donghia Gallery (RA612), Costume and Textiles
Diné (Navajo) apparel design is constantly evolving, often in response to historical events. After Spanish colonists introduced Churro sheep to what is now the Southwest United States in the late 1500s, Diné developed a Navajo-Churro breed that produced wool ideal for weaving. By the 1800s, Diné women were creating wool blankets, mantas, and other forms of apparel. After the 1868 Treaty of Bosque Redondo subjected Diné to US federal government rule, forced assimilation, and American capitalism, Diné apparel transitioned from woven wool textiles to sewn commercial fabrics. As non-Natives began collecting Diné textiles, Diné weavers also created designs for hanging on walls.
The patterns woven by Diné women in the 1800s reflect Diné aesthetics and beliefs. While we can appreciate these works through the lens of art and design, it is a disservice to overlook their cultural meanings. Diné bizaad (Navajo language; pronounced de-NEH biz-AHD) has no word for “art,” but Diné style is distinct and married to hózhó (balance, beauty, and harmony; HOZH-oh). This idea is demonstrated through symmetrical geometric design, light and dark color, and the continuance of the practice by way of matriarchal teaching.
Diné textiles were and continue to be sources of design inspiration, as well as objects of cultural appropriation. Despite hardship, Diné resilience drives creativity forward. We honor and appreciate the generations of Diné weavers who, through hózhó, have designed beautiful garments for beautiful people.
–Sháńdíín Brown (Diné), Henry Luce Curatorial Fellow for Native American Art
Shándíín Brown, Henry Luce Curatorial Fellow for Native American Art
Tʼáá íiyisíí ahéheeʼ (thank you very much) to Diné weaver Chris Brown, Diné scholar Ty Metteba, and Thierry Gentis, curator of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, for their contributions to this exhibition. Special thanks also to Diné artist Darby Raymond-Overstreet for designing the exhibition title and thumbnail.
Diné Textiles: Nizhónígo Hadadít’eh (pronounced nizh-OH-NEE-go hah-dah-DEET-eh) is the work of the Henry Luce Curatorial Fellow for Native American Art, which is funded by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. RISD Museum is supported by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with the generous partnership of the Rhode Island School of Design, its Board of Trustees, and Museum Governors.