Kachina Doll Craft Project
History of the Kachina Doll
To the Hopi people, Kachinas are spirits of deities, of elements from the natural world or of deceased ancestors of the Hopi themselves. They are represented by hand-carved dolls, the earliest of which was made around 1850. According to Hopi legend, each year the Kachinas come down into the Hopi villages from their home on Humphrey’s Peak to bring rain for the upcoming harvest and to offer each child in the village a gift. The Hopi plan celebrations for the Kachina including ceremonial dancing and presentation of the dolls from father to daughter.
The dolls are made by fathers in the village in the days preceding the ceremony. They are not only meant as ornate gifts, but also to teach each daughter about the significance of their particular Kachina spirit. They are hung on the wall of each home for study by the child after the ceremony. Each doll is hand carved, painted and decorated. The intricate detailing has evolved since the first doll was carved in the 1800s. There are four distinct styles of Kachina doll, representing four stages of human development. Two are for infants, with one being specifically made for infant girls, one for toddlers, and one for girls ages two and older. The latter is the most detailed, with mature physical features.
The Hopi are very particular about their Kachinas and can spot an imposter immediately. Each genuine doll features a proper representation of body proportions and attention to detail. The hands of each doll include separated fingers, never closed fists. Only one piece of wood is used in carving the dolls. Those that include glued or nailed on appendages are not the genuine article. The most ornate, detailed dolls range in price from $1000 - $10,000, though there are dolls available for several hundred dollars.
When making a Kachina, even the colors used are significant. Each color represents a direction. For example, red represents south or southeast; blue or green represents west or southwest; white is east or northeast; yellow is north or northwest and black represents the underworld, known by the Hopi as Nadir. If all colors are used, it represents heaven.
Now that you know a bit about the Kachina, it might be fun to get out your scraps of material, beads, ribbons and other decorating accessories and help your kids to make their own. Part of the fun of the project is teaching the kids about the Kachina’s significance, so be sure to talk about the meaning of the colors and about how the fathers give the dolls as gifts to their daughters.
Making Your Kachina
You will need the following supplies, most of which you likely already have at home:
- Empty toilet paper rolls
- Scraps of material
- Paint and brushes
- Hot glue
- Other accessories per preference
You can make your Kachina as a representation of a spirit of your choosing. Perhaps that would be a family pet, your favorite animal, a grandparent or other significant person in your life.
There is no right or wrong way to make or decorate your Kachina, so be creative. See how ornate you can make it. I am including pictures of actual Kachinas and of children’s handcrafted Kachinas for your reference.
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