Snake Charm

Artist: Unknown
Culture/People: Sumatra
Place: Sunda Islands of western Indonesia
Media: Wood and bead inlay
Dims: 3.25 x 20.5 in. (8 x 52 cm)
Date: n.d.
RTC No: AS0066
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011


2019 Hands-On Curatorial Program student curator Gailene Morgan (Tesuque Pueblo/Sac and Fox Nation of the Mississippi in Iowa), wrote about this piece for the 2019 exhibition entitled Recollective Echo.I chose two clay pots from Santa Clara because I wanted to utilize them for my Seniors Honors Project, which is “Preserving the Tewa Language Through Traditional Art.” Pottery is a traditional art that is significant throughout the Pueblos. In Santa Clara, they are well known for their incised black pottery. I was drawn to the pattern on the turtle’s [NA1524] back because it resembled a flower to me. The Tewa language is linked to these pots because of the ways that art can tell a story, reflect a connection someone has, or the process it took to create it.

For the Serpent pot [NA1553], I drew out the words SACRED. I inlaid the serpent within it because the Serpent is a very sacred being among the Tewa Pueblos, and so is the story of it. I originally was going to tell the story but because it is so sacred, I chose to protect it within the words. The Serpent is a representation of water; in our world, water is sacred because there’s less of it. In the Pueblos, it is our life—we pray and worship it every time we dance. These aspects correlated well together in a way that informed the viewer of it but primarily keeping it to myself because it is something for me and my community only.

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