Bookmark This Page

HomeHome SitemapSitemap Contact usContacts

Native American Art - Origin and Different Traditions

No written records of Native Americans exist before the 1500s, when the European seamen discovered the American continent. The period before 1500s is considered by scholars as prehistoric. During that time and after, Native Americans had created their own states, history and art. Native American art is thought to be the link between natives and Europeans, the only way to communicate ideas between the two cultures. When the Europeans came, slight changes in Native American art resulted, due to the new way of life that native people had to take.

Native American art is our way to reach the native Americansí views and history, to learn more about them. Thatís why culture researchers explore Native American art and make it an object of many scholastic discussions. There exists a qualification of the Native American culture, branching off into five main culture districts or zones, which is done for easier interpretation of the works of art and culture. They are, namely, the East, the Plains, Southwest and Northwest coast, and the Arctic. The forms of Native American art differ considerably regarding different districts. That depends on the different weather conditions, various traditions among different groups of natives, natural environment, social order, different religious beliefs, and so on.

The difference of Native American works of art in different districts is so astounding that we may even wonder if they came from one continent. The basic reason for this is about the purpose of art in the lifestyle of Native Americans. Native American art served many purposes, and most of all it was meant to be the visual representation of different myths and religious beliefs. The mythological origin of Native American art gives some reason why the forms of art differ significantly in different parts of the continent: because of the different myths and religions that existed between tribes. Native American art is done to meet various needs; to be a traditional linkage between generations (like the carved totem poles); to serve practical necessities( Natives created beautifully painted pots, vases, utensils, woven mats, rugs, blankets, coverings, home-made clothes and jewelry in astonishing combinations of colours); to be a symbol of rituals (for example art was used in the ritual for rain, and in healing ceremonies, for which different masks and rich garments were produced.)

Native American art is so various and hard to categorize also because of the materials used for the creative activities. Many artists used materials, which they found in their natural surroundings. Feathers, porcupine quills, tree bark, wood, animal skins and hair were all combined in the artistic creation. Different artists used different technologies for the making of beautiful things. Native American art is composed of artworks, made by carving, painting, weaving, sewing, or building. And different technologies tend to slightly vary in different regions, so that artworks are not the same, even if the same materials are used for their making.

Many Native American artworks were intended both for ceremonial purposes and for home usage in the daily life of people. Garments and different bowls served many functions. Rituals and ceremonies were so various that many artworks were produced for their accomplishment. Native Americans had rituals for almost everything: and a large part of their works of art was used for different ceremonies. Totems from Pacific Northwest were a family value and represented the people from the clan, and a lot of effort was put into making those magnificent big poles. Masks were used for communication with the spirits in healing ceremonies. To serve its purpose to the point, a work of art was expected to be beautifully done, so that artists had to make the best they could to produce majestic artworks.

Nowadays there are two branches of Native American art- artists gone into the mainstream of making contemporary art-like photographs, paintings on canvas or performances, and others who continue to work using traditional Native American art technologies.

Article by Robbie Darmona - an article writer who writes on a wide variety of subjects. For more information click Native American Art