Berman Museum

Maud Oakes and Jeff King, I from Where the Two Came to Their Father, 1943.
Maud Oakes and Jeff King, I from Where the Two Came to Their Father, 1943.

Where the Two Came to Their Father

This series of silkscreen prints takes its title from the Navajo creation story, a richly symbolic legend that the Navajo people incorporated into ceremonial blessings for warriors heading into battle.

The legend recounts the birth of twin heroes Monster Slayer and Child Born of Water and their quest to find their supernatural Father in the House of the Sun, from which they returned to earth stronger and wiser. The story speaks not only to creation, but also to kindness, death, and deception. The ritual that embodies the story imparts a divine sense of power to the warrior. Dating back several hundred years, the nine-day, nine-night ceremony was performed by medicine men to prepare those going to war and those left behind.

Jeff King, whose Navajo name was Haska-zilth-e-yah, was one of the most respected medicine men in the Navajo Nation in the first half of the 20th century. King was a scout in the U.S. Army and was buried in Arlington Cemetery when he died in 1964. He is remembered for his efforts to preserve the Where the Two Came to Their Father ritual and accompanying sand paintings, which had been largely forgotten by the early 1900s.

Ethnologist Maud Oakes observed the rite during World War II, when Native Americans were drafted into the U.S. military for the first time. She used gouache on deer hide to copy and preserve King’s original paintings executed in sand, pollen, corn meal, and ground flowers. Based on her gouache copies, the screenprints exhibited here comprise a portfolio which was first published in 1943 with text written by Oakes and additional commentary by Joseph Campbell.

Single Exhibition Image

Short Description

Where the Two Came to Their Father exhibits the eighteen silkscreen prints from a portfolio preserving art from a Navajo war ceremony.

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