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February 27, 2008 > Spirit of the Kachina

Spirit of the Kachina

By Jennifer Falcon

California State University East Bay's C.E Smith Museum of Anthropology will give you the chance to experience the traditional ways of The Hopi Indian when they re-open their free exhibit, Kachinas: The Spirit of the Hopi. Around 50 different pieces including dolls, a traditional Hopi wedding dress, pottery and other artifacts from this ancient way of life are arranged by current Anthropology students at CSUEB. "The students have designed and set up the exhibit on their own, we are just helping them along." Marjorie Rhodes-Ousley, Assistant Director of the museum, explains proudly.

This is the third time the dolls have been on display since they were donated to the school's Anthropology department in 1985, by Jack Lee. His family started the collection in 1949 living amongst the Hopi people in southwest Arizona; it is now at 234 dolls. The museum has shown them once every decade, each time allowing the students to direct its course; this year the students are using the theme of the four seasons. On each wall of the exhibit, a season is displayed. However the wall for autumn remains curiously empty - this is because the Hopi believe that at this time the Kachina's return to their homes in The San Francisco Peaks. According to Hopi Legend the Peaks are where the Hopi first met the Kachina God's who accompanied them home and taught them many ways to live with and be one with the land.

The dolls are often meticulously carved from cottonwood root; many artists devote their lives to the art form which also includes religious studies. Once painted, the dolls are given to Hopi young to teach them about their religion. Kachina's can represent deities such as the Sky God, while others are made to impersonate animals. Each doll tells its own story, their vibrant colors and frozen dance movements representing leaders of the natural and spiritual worlds Hopis use as guides for their way of life.

The exhibit is open with another display, DNA: Cracking the Ancestor Code, which has been displayed for the past three years, also created by Anthropology students along with Dr. George Miller Professor of Anthropology. This free exhibit follows many people's DNA origin back 60,000 years to see where your ancestors came from, and how they migrated into America. The display includes many artifacts such as tools made of flint, a human skull to compare against a Neanderthal skull and a student made floor made especially for the exhibit that showcases the seasons and sounds like ice crackling beneath your feet. You can also see cave paintings on display from the Lascaux Cave estimated to be some 16,000 years old and track your own ancestor's journey for a fee ($100). The Museum will take your DNA sample with a swab and send it away to track your genetic footprints to the Family Tree DNA in Houston, Texas. It takes about 30 days for the result.

Kachina: Spirit of the Hopi and DNA: Cracking the Ancestors Code
March 3- June 13

Opening Reception February 29
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Museum Hours: Monday - Friday
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cal. State East Bay's C.E Smith Museum of Anthropology
Meiklejohn Hall, Room 4047
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward


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