Beauty In The Eyes Of The Dine' Navaho Culture

1987 words - 8 pages

Throughout this unique class, we have explored many amazing facets of the Dine’ people. From stories, to pieces of art, to the language itself, the beauty of Navajo culture is easily seen by all who have the fortune to come into contact with them. Unlike Navajo culture, however, the Western world uses a very loose definition for “beauty” that typically revolves around physical traits: a beautiful girl usually looks a certain way, a beautiful voice usually sounds a certain way, and a beautiful painting usually looks a certain way. The Western world merely looks at physical beauty and from this vision has developed a formula for what is and what isn’t considered beautiful. To the Navajo People, beauty is a much deeper, more meaningful concept. As we have explored in class, the beauty way of life, hozho, rules the way that a Navajo person should act and interact in daily life. Hozho is not only physical but also mental, spiritual, and purposeful.
Gary Witherspoon explains this concept in his book, Language and Art in the Navajo Universe: “The Navajo does not look for beauty; he generates it within himself and projects it onto the universe.” (151) This means that, unlike in Western culture, a Navajo person does not simply observe the physical beauty that is in the world. They create hozho inside their minds and spirits. Navajo people understand beauty as a “conceptual experience” rather than a “perceptual one”. Witherspoon offers a model of the Navajo world that is a cyclical one: from active to static and static to active. The concept of “hozho” is an active on that requires movement, thought, and action. Once a Navajo person has resolved to live in the beauty way, hozho can be materialized in external ways that are visible and audible to the world. The external manifestations of hozho are abundant in Dine’ culture: art, storytelling, prayer, kinship, and many others. Hozho can also be manifested in more subtle ways like caring for a family member or enduring hardships.
One illustration of the way that a Navajo “generates beauty” before “projecting it onto the universe” is the Navajo practice of weaving. Rug weaving requires an extreme amount of patience, preparation, and visualization before the rug can be started. In “Seasons of a Navajo,” the process of rug weaving is shown. Once a sheep has grown long wool, the women shear the sheep, dye the wool, and spin the wool into yarn. Even after all of these steps, a Navajo weaver must carefully plan and consider the extremely intricate pattern of the rug before they even touch the loom. In this way, a weaver must generate beauty internally before they can project it into the universe. A weaver must have a perfect image of their creation inside their head before they begin. While weaving, one must remain in a positive mindset, or else stop weaving. In this way, a Navajo person must fully internalize the idea of beauty before touching their craft. The special planning and great attention to detail that...

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