I collect story teller dolls. They are handmade pottery figurines with small children gathered around them and an open “O” mouth. They were first made in the pueblo cultures of New Mexico and because people found them cute there are now many variations of them. For example, my sister gave me an acrylic one with a cat and kittens, obviously not out of the Native American culture.
The dolls are cute but more importantly they reflect how traditional cultures passed on history, through oral story telling from one generation to the next. I attended a presentation by a black female story teller last weekend and she pointed out that during slave times almost all Black history was oral. Storytelling is an essential component of the human condition. We share the stories that weave the fabric of our families and ultimately our culture with our children.
We were in Arizona a couple of weeks ago. We had the opportunity to tour the Amerind Museum in Dragoon, Arizona. The museum focus is Native American and cowboy art. One of their displays showed how the art work of one family was passed to their children and relatives. All the pieces while beautiful had a similar look to them.
When I returned home, I reviewed the makers of my collection. I have two sets of similar dolls. Not unexpectedly one set was produced by Lucero family who live in the Jemez Pueblo. The other set was produced by the Lewis family who live in Acoma Pueblo. The Lucero pieces are uncannily alike, as if I bought the same thing twice. The Lewis family is becoming known for their bright colors and variations on the tradition storyteller motif.
We have visited the Acoma Pueblo, west of Albuquerque New Mexico, also known as the Sky City Cultural Center. The Pueblo provides a window into Native people’s history. The Pueblo is built atop a sheer-walled 367 foot sandstone bluff. There is no running water or electricity but there are still Native Americans in residence making gorgeous pottery.
My dolls remind me of fabulous trips across America with my husband. They also symbolize the history of the first Americans. Maybe most importantly they represent that human souls are all linked together by our need to share stories and be part of a community of friends and family.