Native American jewellery of the Southwestern United States in its classic union of white metal and blue turquoise is an iconic form and the focus of this strikingly illustrated new publication.
Internationally recognized and locally significant, Native American jewellery has a compelling history which represents the persistence of tradition, while encapsulating the vitality of Native American communities and the continuously transforming nature of their contemporary artistic practice. As a traditional item of adornment, it can be understood through the complex histories of making and the development of locally important styles and materials. Situating jewellery in the cultural economy of the American Southwest, this publication explores Southwestern jewellery as a decorative form in constant transition. It describes this rich tradition as subject to a number of desires, fostered and regulated, at different times, by government agencies, individual entrepreneurs, traders, curators and Native American communities. It presents a series of perspectives on Southwest Native American jewellery and explores questions relating to Native American jewellery’s identity as craft, material culture, commodity and adornment. Considering the impact of tourism, it discusses the phenomenon of fakes and the related desire to codify tradition and traditional styles, and how these affect stylistic development and value. In describing the markets, the makers and the work, the book suggests the complexity and reinvention that is innate to Native jewellery as a commercial craft. The book also examines British activities as regards to collecting, bringing to prominence fieldwork and exchanges between British and American institutions. It traces the networks of individuals, makers and institutions that facilitated the emergence of UK collections from the 1890s to the 1990s, including an account of the activities that led to the development of the British Museum’s contemporary collection. The book draws heavily on the author’s archival and fieldwork research (undertaken since 1997) which includes interviews with Native American jewellers, as well as traders, dealers and curators within the field. Illustrated with items from the British Museum’s collection and drawing from a wide range of historical and contemporary sources, this book explores the symbolic, economic and communal value of Southwestern jewellery today.
More about the author Henrietta Lidchi is an anthropologist and curator, formerly curator of North American collections at the British Museum (1994–2002). She is currently Keeper of the Department of World Cultures at National Museums Scotland. She co-edited Imaging the Arctic (1998) and has more recently co-edited Visual Currencies (2009).