December 21, 2009
Have you been to Keshi? If you’re like me, the answer is “yes,” many times over. Whenever I need a unique gift for a special person, this quiet little shop is the first place that comes to mind, and the holidays are no exception.
Zuni Pueblo, several hours west of Santa Fe, is nestled in a scenic valley on the western slopes of the continental divide. Founded by Zuni Pueblo school teachers back in 1981, Keshi is a direct outlet for Zuni artisans, renowned and respected for their fetishes, carvings that represent the guiding spirit of certain animals revered for their powers by the A:Shiwi (The People). Established roots in the Zuni community allow Keshi to offer authenticity along with the beauty of the works displayed here. The aim of Keshi has always been to provide a fair value to both artisan and collector, and they honor this mission by maintaining personal connections with their artists and their public.
Fetishes have been used by the Pueblo People for over a thousand years to honor individual animals and their special medicine, and in doing so, to summon similar attributes within for meditation and discovery. The value of a fetish lies in the spirit of the animal, not the object itself. There are numerous texts about the use and care of fetishes, and the staff at Keshi is also well-equipped to provide guidance in reading about Zuni culture.
Many animals and birds are represented in the Zuni fetish world, with six major directions, each acknowledged and assigned a color and animal. At the top of the food chain is Yellow Mountain Lion, whose medicine focuses on setting good examples and boundaries and who represents the North. Red Badger, known for his grit and tenaciousness, marks the South and provides guidance in accomplishing a specific goal or purpose. White Suski of the East, the Wolf (bushy-tail), offers medicine that is involved with gathering information and finding new pathways for the clan. The West is the territory of the Blue Bear, a principal Pueblo animal whose hibernation reminds one of the value of going within, especially for strength, healing or protection; Bear aids mothering and is an excellent guide for women. Black Mole, guardian of Mother Earth, marks the Nadir, and his blindness reminds us to trust what we feel, not just what we see. The Many-Colored Eagle stands for the Zenith, the Heavens, bringing extraordinary vision and an ability to see the whole picture.
Beyond these major archetypes are other creatures who each bring distinct powers to aid those in a quest for clarity or guidance. The knowledgeable staff at Keshi is always accessible to help in selecting a fetish for a specific purpose, and they are endlessly patient as one assesses the individual feeling of each carving. Each fetish you select is carefully wrapped, the carver and the material are identified, and a small bag of blue corn powder mixed with turquoise with instructions for feeding the fetish is included. And of course, if you see something else that strikes you, such as distinctive pottery or jewelry, you’ll know the item’s provenance before you leave with it in hand.
If you or a loved one need some help from the other world, this is one of the best places in Santa Fe to find yourself finding yourself! Make a stop at Keshi part of your New Mexico journey…you’ll be sure to say El-lah-kwa (thank you).