Katsinas are a Hopi tradition.
The Heard Museum has an amazing collection of Katsina dolls. Yes, I used the term Katsina instead of Kachina. The docent who showed us around said Katsina was the correct term. I really have no idea, so call them whatever you want.
“Katsinas are the spirit messengers of the universe. After death a Hopi continues a spiritual existence as a life-sustaining Katsina” (information at Heard Museum).
“The cultural and religious belief of Hopi is that Katsinas bring the katsina dolls in their likeness as gifts for young girls. Each gift repesents a prayer for good health, growth and fertility. With this daily reminder in the home, young girls remember the Katsinas and their teachings. Male family members may assist in the learning process by casually singing parts of the Katsina songs within the home to remind other of the prayer songs shared” (information at Heard Museum).
The black and white doll struck me as very funny. I don’t mean to demean another religion by laughing. He looks mischievous and cheerful. I sent the image to the YM and he enjoyed it.
Katsinas were carved at a variety of skill levels and with differing levels of detail. As people started to collect them, artists began carving them to sell rather than for children to play with.
Viewers can tell the difference between the toys and the made-to-sell pieces by looking at the bottom. The art pieces have a base, which make them easier to display.
I really liked the variety of facial expressions.
The collection put together by Barry Goldwater is now in the Heard Museum.
The Goldwater display is separate from the others. The interesting part is the way the collection is displayed: older Katsinas at the top of the case, newer at the bottom. This arrangement makes it very easy to see the evolution of the Katsinas. The newer the doll, the more detailed it is and less likely it is intended for a child.
The Ros George Katsina is a good example of the type of Katsina made as art to sell.
I took a photo of this particular Katsina, because of the feathers. If you click on the photo so you can see it larger, you will see the fine carving on the wings and feathers.