A posting by Dawanye Bahe, NCAP Emerging Artisan
My name is Dawayne Bahe and I am from Lukachukai Arizona where I have lived for the majority of my life. I am a Ta’chiinii (Red Running Into the Water) born for Kinya’aanii (Towering House) Maternal Grandparents are Ta’baaha (Waters Edge) and Paternal Grandparents are Maii’deeshgizhnii’s (Coyote Pass). I work with Dine College Residence Life as the Student Family Living Community Coordinator. Working with College students motivates and inspires me on a daily basis. Every day I learn something new from them. Not only do learn from them but I am also able to mentor them as well. That is the reason why I love working with students living on campus.
At the beginning of Spring 2016 semester, my colleague Sharon Begay, Director of Residence Life, mentioned something about a new Navajo Cultural Arts certificate program starting up through the Center for Diné Studies. I thought to myself …. “well, this could be fun!” so decided to walk up to the main registration and get some more information on the program. Sure enough…. Christine Ami was sitting at a table in the SUB handing out information and recruiting students who were interested in receiving a certificate in the Navajo Cultural Arts.
Just to give you a little bit of background on my cultural arts experience….I come from a family that makes sash belts and does beadwork. At a young age, I would sit next to my aunts and grandma as they did their artwork in the evening time. Rather than playing outside with my siblings, I became fascinated in wanting to learn how to do beadwork and make sash belts. From time to time, I would ask if I could do some beading, but my aunts had to complete their orders so their teaching was in the form of me observing them meet their deadlines. But I observed and watched what they did and through observing I learned. One day when my aunt was doing warping another beading loom, I picked up a smaller loom and starting my own. My aunt just looked at me and she continued doing her thing and I did the same. Since then I have been doing different types of beadwork as a hobby and to make extra money to buy what I need and to restock my supplies. My favorite beadwork to make are the men’s and women’s beaded bracelets. Other beaded items are earrings, barrettes, belts, necklaces, etc.
As I was standing at the registration table, I debated if I should sign up for the program. I had to be full-time student and I also was working full-time with residence life. With much thought and planning, I registered and became one of the 4 students in this first Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate (NCAC) cohort.
The main thing that I wanted to get out of the program was to expand my knowledge with the art of beadwork and to learn about the history of Navajo cultural arts. However, there were only two emphasis areas of study – Weaving and Silversmithing. Now, my father was a silversmith and he would also work on his jewelry day and night but I was never interested in learning because it involved a torch. I regret to this day not learning the basic techniques of silversmithing from him. With that weighing heavily on my mind, I decided to change my path and selected the silversmithing emphasis. Yup…. Dawayne Bahe….a man who never picked up a scribe or even thought about soldering in his whole life… decided to put down the beading needles and pick up the torch.
Of all my classes, I looked forward to my silversmithing class the most. I was anxious to learning everything that Mr. Wilson Aronilth had to present to us. The minute that I sat at my work station and picked up the tools, it was on like donkey kong - hammer was in my hand and I was stamping away. Now, those first pieces weren't the prettiest work I had ever produced. Honestly, up to that point, I missed my beadwork and my sashbelt loom. But, I started off slowly with my silverwork and I eventually gained the basic skills and knowledge of silversmithing with the help of Mr. Aronilth’s teachings and guidance. I most enjoyed the basic skills and the traditional stories and histories of silverwork that he offered to us.
Being part of the program, I have made many pieces of jewelry - mainly bracelets for myself. I know - it sounds selfish - but I also did learned in the program that the best way to advertise, was to wear your work. Plus, I really wanted some nice pieces that I could call my own. The kind of pieces that I would see in the store but that I could never necessarily afford. Well...now I can make my own!!!
One of my top accomplishment is making a Ke’toh bracelet with Sleeping Beauty Turquoise and stamped silver.
I am still continuing to do silverwork and I would love to expand my artwork and my goal is to have my artwork be displayed at one of the well-known art shows. I am determined to make sure that I accomplish that goal.