Sotung Taka “Gambler” Kachina

Brian Smith


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He is noted for his marvelous miniature kachina carvings. Now, this expert artist has moved up to larger ones, with the same meticulous authenticity and detail.

Carved only with a knife, this unusual and colorful kachina is one, continuous, piece of dead cottonwood root.

A relative newcomer to the kachina canon, Sotung supposedly has Pueblo origins, and is sometimes called the Laguna Gambler.

In ceremonies, he is one of the dancers that encourage the growth of corn, and other crops. There are two versions, one bare-chested, and one clothed, like this carving.

A ruff of evergreen around the neck, face painted like a rainbow, a tablita of many feathers, and a flower in one hand, all speak to the role of the kachina in “gambling” on the balance of sun and water, to encourage happy corn, and other, plants.

Corn is the staff of life for Natives in the southwest, and a metaphor for happiness, good health and prosperity.

In this well-made version, there is a wealth of beautifully carved and painted details.

Look at his hair, the ruff, the eagle feathers on his head, the drape of the skin shawl, beautifully carved fingers, the colorful embroidered sashes, gracefully shaped fox pelt at the back; even the rocky ground he stands on.

With the reds in his sashes, tablita, and moccasins,- as well as the greens, yellow and turquoise on the face, the evergreen ruff, and jewelry, the figure is quietly colorful, as well as intricately carved.

This is a charming and, more importantly, expert example of the waning art of knife-carving a one-piece kachina.

Also, the subject is a rare one; an important piece to add to a collection, or a stellar piece to start one.



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