Diné craftswomen hold forth in NC museum

CHINLE

Back in 1989, a young man named Roger Manley came to the Navajo Nation and struck up a friendship with Mary Keahey, whose mother was one of the women who wove the huge rug in Chilchinbeto, Arizona, known as “Shimá” (“My Mother”).

Submitted
Sisters Mary Keahey and Betty Hawley pose with Navajo baskets at the Gregg Museum of Art and Design last week.

The two kept in touch for all these years, and when Manley — now director of the Gregg Museum of Art and Design at North Carolina State University — wanted a live demonstration to accompany the museum’s current exhibit, “Treasures of Native America,” he knew whom to call.

When we reached them Friday, Keahey and her sister, basket maker Betty Hawley, were on their lunch break from their posts at the museum, where Keahey was weaving a Two Grey Hills rug and Hawley was making a traditional basket. Manley was proudly introducing them to such Southern delicacies as barbecue, fried chicken and hush puppies. “I’m gaining weight,” complained Hawley. “They keep making us eat. But it’s all so good.”

Monday morning the tables were turned as the women cooked fry bread for the museum staff. “It’s a great cultural exchange,” said Manley.

In the meantime, “We’re pretty much living in the museum,” laughed Keahey. “We’re part of the display.”


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Categories: Arts

About Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at editor@navajotimes.com.