Encyclopedia Article


Clown figures that appear alongside kachina during Zuni and Hopi ceremonial processions and dances. With grotesque features formed from misshapen and irregular lumps of clay, koyemshi appear uncanny and unformed, familiar yet disturbingly alien. Part of their purpose is to maintain order during ceremonial occassions, and to do so they employ ribald humour and an organic, mocking slapstick that underscores the sacredness and moral seriousness of the ceremony at hand by countering it with sly parody and comedic anarchy.

Photo Credit: 

Koyemshi (mudhead) kachina, late 19th century. Wood, pigment, wool, feather, 16 1/4 x 6 x 5 1/2 in. (41.3 x 15.2 x 14 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1903, Museum Collection Fund, 03.325.4606.

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