The Third Mesa Yungyapu Collection that I share with you today have all been ceremonially blessed in Hopi ceremonies for my children as they grew from infants into adulthood.
The small yungyapu were gifted from the katsinas to my three daughters from birth until initiation. The medium yungyapu were gifted to my two sons for their services as dance partners in the summer social dances as part of the female dance partner’s payback. The larger yungyapu were prizes earned by my sons during the ceremonial foot races that take place throughout the year.
The Hopi word for the Third Mesa Style Baskets is Yung ya pu. I will use this word so you learn the proper name for this artwork that is indigenous to the Americas. I was surprised with the number of yungyapu in our family collection and I hope you will enjoy the images.
I am not a yungyapu weaver. When I was a 16-year-old teenager, my maternal grandmother taught me to weave yungyapu over one summer school break. One yungyapu takes about a year from scratch to finish.
On the fourth day after the summer Niman ceremony, my grandmother went out to her favorite spot to harvest the natural fiber materials. Then the materials were cleaned, dried and dyed different colors. Once a sufficient amount of the natural materials and colors is ready, the weaver can start a yungyapu design and with a purpose in mind.
I skipped this part of the hard work. My grandmother completed the preparations and I just sat down and started weaving a basic design under her guidance. She prepared the damp sand, sharpened points and chose the best fibers for each part of the yungyapu. Many times I had to undo my in/out weaving to correct mistakes.
I was surprised when one of the first yungyapu I made many years ago was returned to me from my High School Biology teacher.
That is the extent of my knowledge of yungyapu weaving. Many Hopi women and girls have become skillful master weavers whose yungyapu have become collector’s items.
Please think about how the right and left brain operates to bring out the antiquity of designs in the minds of Hopi women today. The skill is in our DNA and came with us from the beginning time. Hopi women have been making yungyapu for a long, long time.
History of Yungyapu Weavings
The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office website is a good reference for a history of Yungyapu Basket Weaving tradition by Hopi women who continue this cultural heritage, the oldest craft from the Basket Maker Period of A.D. 100 to 500.
Red, yellow, and black are the basic yungyapu colors. Red comes from Navajo Tea. Black from sunflower seeds. Yellow from hohoisi. White from kaolin clay. Originally, colors were more pastel and not as bright as commercial dyes used today.
Yungyapu designs are skillfully arranged to produce images of katsina spirits, animals, elemental images of clouds, lighting, rain, insects and geometric designs. The natural colors of plant materials used to construct the yungyapu serve as a background for the designs.
The symbolism and tradition in Hopi yungyapu designs link each unique handmade yungyapu to other parts of Hopi life, past and present. All traditional yungyapu designs have a name and meaning.
Hopi Basket Weaving Techniques
There are three basic types of Hopi Basket Weaving techniques.
- Tsa yun pi. Utility baskets made of plaited yucca straps.
- Yungyapu, Weavings using a twilled technique of dyed rabbit brush and a rib foundation of dune brush twigs.
- Poo ta, A bundle of wild grass as a foundation and yucca in a coiling technique.
Each technique calls for certain basic plant materials. Yungyapu, the Third Mesa twilled style are made from sivaapi (rabbit brush) and sii wi (dune brush) with a yucca strip finish.
All materials are gathered from the natural vegetation in northern Arizona. Generally, the traditional rule is that four days following the Niman or Home Going Ceremony in July, women may start harvesting these natural materials.
We have been in a long drought period so many of the natural fiber materials have dried up and is not available for harvesting. Environmental changes have an impact on the continuation of this indigenous artwork.
How do the Hopi use Yungyapu
A.D. 100 is a long time since the Hopi women have continued of this tradition of Hopi basket weaving and demonstrates the importance of yungyapu in Hopi culture.
Yungyapu are used in many cultural activities on the Hopi mesas or are sold to visiting art collectors and tourists.
Traditionally, yungyapu are a medium of exchange, trade, gifting and reciprocity. After a Hopi ceremony, the yungyapu may be distributed to clan members who helped with a ceremony.
Different types of yungyapu have unique uses, such as carrying plaques, trays, and bowls, sifters, serving a variety of everyday and ceremonial functions.
One significant life event is the Hopi wedding ceremony. Yungyapu are traditionally made by the bride’s family for the groom’s family. These yungyapu are repayment or pay back for the bridal robes woven by the men of the groom’s family. As part of my own payback for my Hopi wedding ceremony we counted 50 yungyapu.
Tray varieties are used for sifting parched corn and piki trays used to serve or carry piki, the paper-thin, traditional Hopi bread made from blue corn meal.
Bowls, deep form baskets such as burden baskets, are woven by using coiling or twilled techniques. The burden baskets, woven by men were used to haul loads on the back of a person or animal. Peach baskets were commonly used to carry fruit up the mesas.
There is a conservative continuation of traditional patterns with no radical or extreme departures from tradition. My maternal grandmother advised that we not change the basic designs as they came with us from the beginning time. So there are traditional boundaries that we observe even today.
Paaqavi Incorporated would like to invite everyone to a presentation of this collection in May, 2018. The Walnut Canyon National Monument will host a public presentation on May 26, 2018 from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m and 1:00 – 2:00 pm in Northern Arizona. Everyone is Welcome.
If you would like to learn more about the Hopi Third Mesa Style Yungyapu artwork by Hopi Master Weavers, I recommend the following publications:
“Hopi Wicker Plaques & Baskets”, Author Robert W. Rhodes
“Hopi Miniature Baskets”, by Byron Harvey and Suzanne de Berge
“Hopi Basket Weaving, Artistry in Natural Fibers”, by Helga Teiwes
By Marilyn Fredericks, All Rights Reserved, 2018