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Katsina

Katsina: Commodified and Appropriated Images of Hopi Supernaturals
Zena Pearlstone
Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2001
E99 .H7 C62 2001

The appropriation and commodification of expressive culture have been prominent themes in many of the Fowler Museum's most important publications on Africa, Asia, and Latin America - and rightly so. Few if any admired artistic traditions from these regions have escaped exploitation in the Western marketplace - from the ivory carvings in Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture to the wonderfully popular molas in The Art of Being Kuna to the intricate pictorial embroideries of Threads of Light: Chinese Embroideries from Suzhou and the Photography of Robert Glenn Ketchum. Clearly in each of these instances, there would be entirely different stories to tell without the presence of the commodity. The words appropriation and commodify have become commonplace in contemporary discourse concerned with much of the world's art, so much so that each merited its own essay in Robert S. Nelson and Richard Shiff's Critical Terms for Art History (1996). These catchwords in turn beg questions of "authenticity" and "tradition" that run throughout the discussions of Hopi Katsinam that form the subject of the present volume.

Unlike many of the Fowler Museum's previous studies, however, this publication deals with objects that are firmly rooted in the realm of the sacred. The hybrid compromises that may be seen as permissible with certain secular traditions become considerably more problematic when they entail religious beliefs. Also unlike our previous studies where the modes and means of production have largely remained within the originating culture, Hopi Katsinam have been imitated and exploited by their immediate neighbors as well as by the manufacturers halfway around the world. Imitation and production compromises aside, what believer - regardless of religion - could help but being offended at seeing revered figures featured as comic book characters, whiskey bottles, or corn chip logos. These are just a few of the problems addressed in this provocative anthology.

Working closely with Hopi scholars and artists, [Zena Pearlstone] has organized an ambitious examination of some of the most important considerations in contemporary Hopi life, including issues of religious privacy, intellectual copyright, and artisitc freedom.

Quoted from forward.