The form of this pot is unusual. The rim is carefully uneven with the rear rim rising about 0.5” above the side rims and incorporating a hole large enough to hang the pot from a nail in the wall. The crenellated front of the pot rises 2.125” above the side rims and forms the upper portion of a face.
The face is a depiction of a Palhik Mana wearing a kopatsoki (tableta). The crenellated shape of the high edge represents cumulus clouds, which bring rain. Crenellated edges are used on the four sides of medicine bowls (cf. 2005-17 and 2005-18), but this is the first Hopi bowl I have seen with just one crenellated section.
Sculpted faces on pottery are rare at Hopi. Only three pots in this collection display this feature: 2007-16 by Nampeyo, 2012-03, and 2012-05.
The applied face begins about an inch above the bottom of the pot with the chin rising about 0.5” off the pot surface and the face merging with the pot’s surface at about the level of the forehead. In part, the chin was formed by pushing the wet clay out from inside the bowl. The face is about 4.3” from chin to top and is built on a slightly convex surface so that the inside of the bowl behind the face is slightly concave but flatter than the back curve of the bowl. The face is tilted forward so that viewed head-on the chin is about 1.20 inches closer than the crown of the head. The nose is raised off the surface of the pot, as is the oval corn image above the eyes. The walls of the vessel, including the head, are quite thick.
The top edge of the pot is painted black. The body of the pot is decorated with five black crooks using a design called naktci representing rain clouds. Indeed almost exactly this image is used on the outside of an ancient Jeddito (1300-1630 CE) bowl in this collection (1994-15) and the use of this symbol persisted during the San Bernardo (1625-1680 CE) and Payupki (1680-1780 CE) eras (Patterson 1994:108, 188 and 246). The stepped images painted on the body of the pot reflect the crenellated top edge of the bowl. The red paint is quite thin and pale and is only use for the cheek striations, the small corn structure above the eyes and one small area in the Hopi rain cloud symbol. The eyes, nose, and mouth are very simple and understated, to my eye looking like an ancient Cycladic statue or a modern Brancusi. These face elements occupy only a small area of the overall image, reinforcing the fact that what is shown is a person wearing a kopatsoki. Emerging from the corn image on the kopatsoki are 10 black feathers that carry Hopi prayers for rain. Above the corn is a traditional Hopi image of a rain cloud with thunder emerging from the top and rain from the bottom (Patterson, 1994:143 and 211). Below the face, the Palhik Mana wears a monochromatic necklace that appears to depict chunks of turquoise strung together with smaller beads, a typical pueblo arrangement.
I wrote friends at Second Mesa who run an extraordinary craft shop that supplies much of the material used in creating Katchina dolls and the regalia used in village dances and asked them if they could identify the Katchina on pot 2012-05. [See an article on the shop, Tsakurshovi, in American Indian Art Magazine, Vol. 32, No. 1, (Winter 2006):58-65, 92-93].
Joseph Day replied:
“It’s a sa’lako or more probably a palhik mana. The only way to tell the difference is the body, which this does not have. I think it’s a palik mana (moisture maiden) and it was probably used as a container for hooma (prayer meal) and hung on a wall by the hole in the back so that it was easily accessible and ready for household use by anyone who might need it….(the oval element above the eyes is) an ear of corn with feathers coming out on either side. The lightening is the zig zag lines coming out of the cloud on the kopatsoki, the terraced headpiece which also represents a cloud. (Sometimes the kopatsoki is referred to as a tablita, but if we are going to be learning a word in a foreign language it might as well be the language of the makers/users of the piece we are describing, so kopatsoki it is.” [Emails 4/3/12, on file.]
The Palhik Mana has several functions and thus several names: “Water Woman,” “Butterfly Maiden” and “Corn-Grinding Maiden.” Although not a Katchina, she participates in several dances that are prayers for rain and a bountiful harvest. She has a “triangular design of red lines on the cheeks [and a] yarn tube, an ear of corn symbol with feathers on her forehead…” (Branson 1992:77). Both of these features are seen on bowl 2012-05. Particularly clear images of the corn bundle with feathers are seen in Colton (1959: figure 6 and p. 48, #120) and also in Secakuku (1995:35).
Here, form and decoration work together to clearly express function. Every element of the bowl is a prayer for moisture and abundant crops, the very purpose of the cornmeal it contained that was used to greet a new day.
The Palhik Mana image was also used on a plate in this collection by Candice Nampeyo (
2005-07), Nampeyo’s piki bowl (2009-17), a canteen by Loren Ami (2011-23), and a monumental contemporary jar by Rachel Sahmie (2012-01).