Grantee: TahNibaa Naataanii
Native Citizenship: Diné (Navajo)
Location: Shiprock, N.M.
Award: 2017 NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship
Discipline: Traditional Arts, Weaving
Web Site: None
By mentoring others to weave, Naataanii strives to counter stereotypes that generational weaving is an “old and forgotten art” within her culture. Dismayingly, Navajo weaving is not commonly practiced. This art practice is in dire need of preservation and revitalization. Weaving songs are absent, which are a vital part of the weaving process. She hopes that by sharing her generational knowledge through mentoring, she will inspire others to learn traditional weaving.
With her 2017 NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship, TahNibaa Naataanii wants to increase Apprentice Sonja K. Morgan’s (Navajo) artistic skill level by teaching her the holistic approach to Navajo weaving. Her lessons will include experiencing pastoral life ways; methods of cleaning; carding; spinning; and dying wool; to researching a family-weaving tree. To accomplish these goals, she will take her apprentice across the Navajo Nation to attend ceremonies, interview elders, and visit historical sites related to weaving. Professional development studies will include library research, museum visits and attending juried art shows, where Naataanii will share her knowledge of art business in the hopes of encouraging her apprentice into a sustainable weaving practice.
Naataanii is recognized as a distinguished weaver and has received many Best of Show and First Place awards in art markets. She considers her work a harmonious collage of traditional and contemporary design. Her skills and in-depth knowledge in the entire Navajo weaving process—from birthing lambs, sheering fleece, dying, spinning, weaving, felting, to exhibiting and marketing her work—have shaped her understanding and teaching, thereby helping others understand how art contributes to Native identity and pride, building community and entrepreneurial opportunities, and immersing oneself in Indigenous cosmologies.
When I weave, I pay homage to our deities, Spider Man and Spider Woman, because they brought weavings to us. The results are holistic products of continuity and change, made in a deeply spiritual way.
~ TahNibaa Naataanii
Mentor and Apprentice Joint Art Project:
TahNibaa Naataanii taught Sonja K. Morgan both the business side of art and traditional weaving techniques by having Morgan attend juried art shows and fiber-related community gatherings. By the end of the mentorship, Morgan completed a small Navajo weaving and plans to continue to learn more in traditional weaving.