Grantee: TahNibaa Naataanii
Native Citizenship: Navajo (Diné)
Location: Table Mesa, New Mexico
Award: 2020 Mentor Artist Fellowship
Discipline: Traditional Arts
For TahNibaa Naataanii, and the Diné (Navajo) people, weaving is more than an artistic practice, it is a way of life that teaches and reinforces the connectivity to ancestral and spiritual philosophies of self, land, and community. Naataanii honors and maintains the ancestral weaving protocols and lessons that were passed on to her from her mother, her maternal grandmother, and all the grandmothers before her. Thus, she practices traditional Diné weaving methods by harvesting wool from sheep on her own land in the high desert, dying her materials using plants found in the Navajo Nation, and participating in weaving ceremonies and prayers to bless the nature of her work.
Naataanii’s work is an array of intricately woven garments and works of art that vary in color, shape, pattern, and design. Some of her weavings follow “traditional” patterns, such as her shoulder blankets and ponchos, while others include abstract and contemporary designs. Her weavings have won multiple awards in art markets and juried art shows. Naataanii is dedicated to revitalizing traditional Navajo textile weaving with apprentices and students in the Diné community, as well as educating audiences, both nationally and internationally, about Navajo weaving culture and traditions.
For the 2020 Mentor Artist Fellowship, Naatanni’s apprentice, Gloria Begay (Diné [Navajo]) will gain knowledge of the fundamental steps of Navajo weaving. After a series of lessons and smaller projects are completed, the pair will weave a rare Women’s Rug Dress, known as a Bill Aee. To deepen Begay’s weaving practice, Naatanni will also teach her Navajo weaving protocols, songs, and history; how to harvest and prepare natural materials and dyes; and art-marketing skills.
I am a weaving mentor, to show my people that this way of life is important to carry on, to protect, to share with our children.
– TahNibaa Naatannii