Wednesday, March 6, 2013

70 Hopi Katsinam friends in auction - continued...

Yesterday I explained a bit why these Friends should not be auctioned off but returned to the Hopi Nation.
One should be aware that the items to be auctioned by Néret-Minet are religious artifacts, cultural property and considered by the Hopi people to be stolen goods. As I explained yesterday these objects have a deep spiritual meaning and are extremely important to the continuation of Hopi religion. The well-being of the Hopi people depends also on them in the long run. If someone years ago has bought these items then  one should be aware that whomever had those items in custody sa only the caretaker of those items and not the owner. That person had no legal authority to sell them. These Katsinam masks are community property as well as cultural property. By law and custom these items are not mere old religious paraphernalia. The spirit of the beings they represent is contained in them. Translated from Hopi language, they are Friends and can never be personal property. I am convinced that American law, if not international law protect just this kind of items. When a few weeks ago catholic items were robbed from a church in Hungary, there followed an outcry that these old object are not art objects, but items used in religious ceremonies. It is truly important that these Hopi Friends be returned home to the Hopi religious societies that have always been and still are responsible for the welfare and care-taking of these Masks and other objects. I hope the auction house well engage in a dialog with the Hopis so that these Friends can be repatriated to the appropriate Hopi religious society. I only now begin to understand what it means to have a structured worldview with different societies and clans each fulfilling a function within the whole of Hopi and the world according to a strict calendar where time and space is linked and thus forms the religious ceremonial cycle.  And don’t think it is all sullen and serious….  Hopi like to laugh and talk and joke.  In Hopi culture there are no medicine men. Hopi have healers, often specializing in broken bones or broken spirits… To mend broken spirits the communal ceremonies are important and for that all the Katsinam need to come home. I add a declaration of the Hopi Nation:
          "Pursuant to ARTICLE VI –POWERS OF THE TRIBAL COUNCIL, SECTION 1, (k) CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS OF THE HOPI TRIBE, the Hopi Tribe/Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, of Arizona, USA, strongly opposes any sale of Hopi religious objects, described by your auction house as “70 Katsinam masks of the Hopi Indians of Arizona…”.  These Katsina friends are sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony held under religious custody by the Hopi people:
                "It is our position that these sacred objects should have never left the jurisdiction of the Hopi Tribe.  Also, no Hopi has any right or authority to transfer and sell these items currently in your possession as they are considered cultural patrimony.
                "Religious objects such as these, have no commercial value.  It is our position that no one, other than a Hopi tribal member, has a right to possess these ceremonial objects.
                "You are urgently asked to take these item off your auction and inform your clients that the Hopi tribe does not approve of them being auctioned off.  Rather, we urge you and your clients to make immediate contact with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office to begin respectful discussions to return them back to the tribe.
                "You may also know that the country of France, was among the first nations to sign the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights.  Your auction house needs to respect this important international recognition of indigenous and Hopi rights.
                "Thank you for your consideration of our position on this matter.”

                Leigh J, Kuwanwisiwma, Director, Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, Hopi Tribe

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