Although Hopi katsina carvings have been dated to the 1880s, attribution to specific makers didn't occur until the 1920s. The first artist to be so recognized was the Kikmongwi or Chief of Orayvi, Wilson Tawaquaptewa (1873 - 1960). He appears to have begun carving in the 1920s.
His creations are among the most interesting in the history of the Hopi art form for two reasons: First, he was one of the most important political figures in the 20th Century due to his central role in the famous 1906 split which lead to the creation of the Hopi villages of Hotevilla and Bacavi. Second, he was unique in the history of Hopi katsina carving because he intentionally never made an accurate rendition of a Katsina figure. He deliberately distorted all his carvings because of his religious conviction that accurate versions of the Katsina spirits and dancers should not be sold. Instead, he mixed up or made up all his carvings and sold them to the ever increasing waves of researchers and tourists visiting Hopiland. Ironically, his dolls have become among the most desirable and collectible of all Hopi katinsam, even though none of his creations are what they appear to be.
These katsina carvings are entirely representative of his better work. One bears tableta ears that feature a corn motif, a design he often favored. Two others have crossed eyes, a favorite distortion of his that points to his sense of humor and irreverence. All three have oversized ears - which are desirable attributes because they are dramatic. And one has outlandish polka dots which he invented as a common decoration.
Tawaquaptewa's creations are not mere carvings. They are important objects of Hopi history which emanated from a unique political figure and artisan.
WILSON TEWAQUAPTEWA (1871-1960)
Wilson Tewaquaptewa (1871-1960)
Cottonwood root with string attachments. Semi circular feet, the bent arms carved close to the body and wearing a kilt, sash, and squash blossom necklace. The case mask has slit eyes, tubular mouth and is surmounted by large stepped tab ears with corn plants on the reverse. Painted in red, black, brown and white.
8¾ x 4¼ in. (22.2 x 10.8 cm.)