Morning to Night Series, 1999, Joann Johnson, ET513.D-18
Photo: Kirstin Roper, © NHMU

New Designs

Prior to the 1970s, Diné (Navajo) basketry was synonymous with one design – the ts’aa’ (ceremonial basket). Contemporary Diné baskets now feature an astonishing range of designs. Story baskets record sacred stories, ceremonies, events in Diné history, and daily life in Dinétah (the Diné homeland). Baskets featuring purely geometric designs focus on intricate patterns and color systems. Some new designs revive ancient patterns, like Na'ashjé'íí Asdzą́ą́ (Spider Woman) crosses and whirling log emblems. Like artists everywhere, the weavers take inspiration from diverse sources and express them with their own creativity and skill. The proliferation of new Diné basket designs challenges the common perception that change represents a loss of “authenticity” in Indian art and, more broadly, Indian cultures. This view of “authenticity” attempts to freeze Indian cultures at an arbitrary point in the past. All cultures change, whether imperceptibly or rapidly, and contemporary Diné baskets are the product of a vibrant and dynamic culture.