Dan Namingha


Curator Dan Namingha (Tewa/Hopi) is a contemporary artist.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Dan chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Nampeyo bowl

Annie Healing | Tewa/Hopi
c. 1907–10
Clay and paint
3¼ x 10 in. (8.3 x 25.4 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Abstract Bird Motif

My earliest memory of my great-grandmother Annie was probably from when I was around four or five years old. I was raised by my grandparents Emerson and Rachel Namingha, in the Hopi village of Polacca, Arizona. Rachel was the daughter of Annie and Willie Healing. My grandparents’ home was within walking distance of Annie’s house, so I would occasionally visit her.

I have fond memories of my great-grandmother. She always greeted me with a smile and was unfailingly kind. She had a great woodstove where she cooked her meals, such as hominy stew with lamb—and those tortillas, they were the best!

Annie lived alone. Her husband, Willie, passed away before I was born, but she continued creating pottery. She would sometimes sit near the window in the sunlight as she applied her intricate designs on her ceramic pots. She kept a few small pots in the woodstove, allowing them to dry before taking them outdoors for firing. She sold her pottery to visiting collectors and at the local trading post.

My mother, Dextra, who also was a potter, told me this story years ago. She said Annie was on occasion known to make very large pots. One day, Annie was working on one of her large pots when she decided to step inside to apply more clay for better composition and shape, not realizing she eventually had to climb back out. Fortunately, a family member was present and carefully helped her climb out. Annie had a great sense of humor; she laughed at herself for doing such a thing as enclosing herself in her own ceramic pot. Family members would occasionally tell this story, reflecting on fond memories of her.

Unfortunately, Annie’s eyesight began to fail as she grew older, and she eventually stopped making pottery. Grandmother Rachel began preparing meals for her. On occasion I would deliver the meals to Annie and light the kerosene lamp for her.

During her lifetime, Annie created potteries ranging in size from small to very large. Her work is included in several prestigious national museum collections. Annie was the eldest daughter of the renowned ceramicist Nampeyo, and this particular pot reminds me of her. I was intrigued by the abstract nature of the bird-and-feather design and by the composition of the two birds opposite each other. The Tewa and the Hopi people have a parallel belief that there is a duality that exists in our daily lives: the physical world versus the spiritual one. The tribal ceremonies that are performed connect us to the ancestors and allow us to continue forward. The past is our future, the future is our past. The two abstract birds opposite each other remind me of that.