Traditional Art and Culture Event Teaches Much More Than Painting (10 Photos)

Traditional Art and Culture Event Teaches Much More Than Painting (10 Photos)

Alysa Landry


Roughly 75 children and teens dipped brushes into acrylic paint during a Native art and culture event July 9 through 11 in Shiprock, New Mexico.

The event, called Dahayóígíí, or “strong ones,” matched Navajo artists and leaders with youths who spent three days learning the basics of traditional and contemporary art forms, along with culture and language. One of the main events was an acrylic painting demonstration during which all students were encouraged to make their mark on a large canvas.

“We supply the materials and teach the basic techniques,” painting instructor Keno Zahney said. “From there, the students just paint. We want them to have the freedom and hands-on experience to work with color, texture and composition.”

The result was a four-by-six-foot masterpiece with contributions from dozens of aspiring artists.

The painting exhibition was one of many to take place during the art and culture event. Teachers demonstrated skills ranging from horsemanship to sand painting, and from hoop dancing to basket weaving—all the while speaking to students in Navajo and incorporating traditional wisdom, event coordinator Gabriel Benallie said.

“The arts being taught are culturally correct,” he said. “We’re essentially trying to teach the youth, to give them a first look at traditional arts, to give them a little foundation to blast off from.”

The culmination of the event was an art exhibition and talent show held July 11, during which students showed off their work to parents and community members.

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