Diné women are often overlooked in a patriarchal society, but one photographer looks to change that.
Ruth Kawano, wife of Diné in-law Kenji Kawano, displayed her photo exhibit downtown Gallup at the monthly Artscrawl on Saturday, April 8. Her exhibit is dedicated to the beauty and power of Diné women. “I wanted to show how strong and powerful it is to be a Diné woman,” said Ruth Kawano.“They represent a large part of Navajo culture.”
The Crashing Thunder Gallery downtown on Coal Street was filled with guests as portraits of Diné women filled the gallery, illuminating the gallery walls as people browsed and looked at photos of Diné women in 19th and 20th century clothing.
“It varies in (age) range. I’ve shot young women from all ages, one is six and one is 98,” said Kawano. Some guests browsed the Artscrawl looking to catch eye-catching art as the city of Gallup hosts the monthly event every second weekend of the month.
It features the arts community with artists, musicians and others browsing and listening to live music.A year ago Kawano began shooting various subjects around the Navajo Nation and surrounding areas and got the idea to honor women by photographing Diné of all ages.
“I want people to see what I see, an extension of who I am as an artist,” she said.
Kawano said while photographing, she would often interview her subjects, getting a little background information on each to add to the portraits. “I converse with them and ask them about their dreams and goals,” said Kawano, adding she would also ask the question about what it is to be Diné. Some answers inspired her.