A Yei Navajo Figural Double-sided flat woven wall hanging - circa 1930. Displaying five standing figures on an deep speckled grey ground, framed by a red border.
The Yei iconography is related to Navajo religious sandpaintings. Navajo religion has a reverence for nature and is based on maintaining a balance in the universe. It was believed that there was a sense of harmony needed to maintain a healthy life. Should an individual do something to upset this balance, then it was believed that an illness might befall them. Much like in the modern-day, a medicine man was hired to help regain this harmony. The remedy involved a combination of chanting, herbal medicines and a sandpainting ritual. Various coloured sands were sprinkled on the ground until they formed a specific Yei (holy person), based on the god he was trying to summon. When the sandpainting was completed, it was sanctified by spreading corn pollen over it.
Once the sacred sandpainting had served its purpose, it was erased. To save it or reproduce its imagery was dangerous and could bring serious grief to anyone who retained the image.
During the 1890s, the Navajos phased out blanket weaving in favour of rugs. There was strong demand from the vast migration of settlers, building homes by the thousands, who needed something to cover their floors. The first Navajo rug depicting holy people appeared during the 1890's. Allegedly, savvy Anglo traders encouraged weavers to incorporate Yei figures into their designs. Tempted by high prices offered for rugs with Yei imagery, a few brave individuals risked the wrath of the gods. When they completed their task and had nothing bad happen to them, the rush to produce Yeis was on.
Though the weaves were often commissioned to cover floors, many were never used for this purpose and were instead used to hang on walls, or as blankets.
To this day, modern machine woven rugs are seen mass-produced in Mexico. This remarkable example, along with other handwoven examples date from between 1900's-1930's and display charming idiosyncrasies, where the emotions of the weaver are very present in the overall design.
73cm x 67cm.
A Yei Navajo Figural Double-sided flat woven Wall Hanging - 1930 Round Heads
Height - 73cm
Width - 67cm