Fred Koruh is Hopi, but married into Zuni, where he resides. He is also a medicine man, so his kachina carvings are scrupulously authentic.
Mastop is one of the Chief kachinas, so named because of their ceremonial importance. They usually appear as a pair, at the end of the Soyal ceremony, at the end of winter – but only on Third Mesa of the Hopi land.
Mastop’s importance is as a fertility spirit, both for human women, and metaphorically, to encourage a plentiful harvest later in the year.
In addition to this serious role, Mastop kachina is also a kind of clown, since they cavort around, pretending to copulate with every female in the vicinity, young or old.
This is typical of Native ceremonies, which often combine several elements: the spiritual, the festive, and the entertaining.
This Mastop carving is a contemporary version of the old kachina style, where only the head was detailed, for identification purposes, and the body was left with minimal detail.
It is all one piece, and all of a dead cottonwood root, as is traditional.
Cottonwood trees thrive along waterways, and send their roots deep into the earth, seeking water.
Therefore, the choice of this material has a spiritual component, for the dry-farming Hopi. Dead roots, only, are chosen so no living tree is harmed.
The elegant curve of the blanket, enfolding the figure, is finished with an incised and painted edging, and “fringed” hems.
His ruff and dangling ear decorations are handsomely carved and shaped, as is the feather on his head.
Intricately carved, it is subtly tinted to resemble an eagle feather, which will convey the prayers for a bountiful planting season and harvest up to the heavens.
Also nicely carved are the hand and fingers that hold the club.
Drilled dots on his cheeks represent raindrops, which are necessary for thriving plants – and humans.
The many parallel lines carved into his ruff, his side pieces, the club in his hand, and the hems of his blanket, reinforce the theme of rainfall.
Beautifully finished to a smooth surface, the tall and slender proportions of this carving give it an impressive grace and stature.
This kachina combines the gravitas of the spiritual role of the Mastop, and the serious – but amusing – actions it undertakes.
A beauty of a kachina, and rigorously authentic, as well.