Not just pretty pictures

Young artists tell the story of Navajo history, culture

Young Diné artists, Apaolo Benally (left) and Giovanni Benally (right) appear here with figures of the Hero Twins, Monster Slayer made of stainless steel and Born for Water in bronze.

Young Diné artists, Apaolo Benally (left) and Giovanni Benally (right) appear here with figures of the Hero Twins, Monster Slayer made of stainless steel and Born for Water in bronze.

ESPAÑOLA, N.M.

Tucked away from the main drag that runs through town, a dirt road leads to Apaolo and Giovanni Benally’s home where a cloak of great trees provide shade for an expansive yard and a fine, large house with an inviting front porch.

It’s a home rooted in Diné culture that inspires the young artists to make creations that honor their heritage.

As visitors walk through the entrance, an outstretched hand holding a Yeibichai greets them and not far off a stone figure representing Changing Woman, also made out of glimmering white marble, stands nearby.

The sculptures were made by Apaolo and Giovanni’s dad, Ryan Benally, Diné.

Ryan grew up in Red Valley, New Mexico, helping his parents and grandparents herd cattle and tend crops. During that time, they told him traditional stories and how the Holy People provided guidance to the Diné.

Inside the Benally home, paintings representing the Holy People appear on walls, tables and kitchen counters made in water colors, acrylics, bronze, clay and metal. There’s First Man, Talking God, Water Sprinkler, Fire God, and the Hero Twins: Born for Water and Monster Slayer.

Six-year old Apaolo and 10-year old Giovanni are the artists who created them.

The two Diné youth started painting and drawing images of cultural significance when they were around three years old.

“Yeibichais are important because they protect the earth,” said Apaolo.

“They are the heroes of the earth. They protect our family and bring us luck,” added Giovanni.

 To read the full article, pick up your copy of the Navajo Times at your nearest newsstand Thursday mornings!

  Find newsstand locations at this link.



Categories: Culture