NEA Statement On The Death Of National Heritage Fellow Mary Holiday Black


credit: Flickr

Mary Holiday Black, the first citizen of the Navajo Nation and the first Utahn to receive the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, has died at the age of 80.

She was born on the northern side of the Navajo reservation in Utah, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

Her mother was a rug weaver and her father was a medicine man, and she learned basketweaving at a young age.

"She learned not only the techniques of gathering, dyeing, and weaving the willow (sumac), but also the rich store of meaning associated with baskets," the NEA says in a statement.

"Women in the community maintained the tradition of weaving ceremonial baskets at the same time they wove rugs to sell to trading posts.

Black remained active at basketweaving by passing her skills along to her children."

She introduced several innovations during the 1970s that proved critical to its survival, sparking a renaissance of Navajo basketry.

She stretched the traditional limitations of design, keeping the black-white-and-red color scheme but expanding the baskets beyond the size appropriate for ceremonial use.

Some of her coiled-tray wedding baskets, used in a number of ceremonial rituals, reached five feet in diameter. Read the Entire Article


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