Collectors Guide: Zuni Pueblo Carvings & Fetishes
At the Indian Pueblo Store, we work to connect you to resources and information to enhance your understanding of Native American art and artists of the Southwest in a meaningful way. It is our hope that this guide to Zuni Pueblo carvings and fetishes helps to enhance your understanding and appreciation of these authentic Native American art forms and figures.
Carved in Stone
Since time immemorial, Pueblo people of the Southwest have carved into stone, etching visual stories and making their mark within the land. Many of these carvings can still be seen today across the Southwest, not only in the rock faces but also in early effigy pots and vessels, intentionally created for a specific purpose. These carvings have endured throughout time, and represent a special place and purpose, reminding us of those who came before us and the many gifts of Mother Earth. Over time, these carvings have become a celebrated form of Native American art known as carvings and fetishes.
Carving or Fetish
While all fetishes are carvings, not all carvings are fetishes. Although carvings that have been blessed may also be referred to as fetishes, traditionally, a fetish is an animal that guards one of the six cardinal directions, while a carving is any representation of a creature in stone, wood, or antler. It is believed that the attributes of the animal are embodied within the fetish providing protection and serving as a reminder through reflection that we too can work to exhibit these same qualities.
Frequently represented animals in carvings and fetishes are the protectors. Mountain lions with their keen eyesight, stealth and agility, serve as the guardians of the north. The bear with its strength guards the west. The determined badger is the guardian of the south. The wolf with its strong sense of family is the guardian of the east. Soaring above us is the eagle, known as the guardian of the skies. The mole with its ability to sense and understand the darkness is the guardian of below. Often depicted with a heartline, these protectors are cherished and become a treasured item in any collection.
A Revered Art Form
Many Tribes and Pueblos of the Southwest are known for their carvings and fetishes, but this ancient art form is most closely associated with the Zuni Pueblo people, who are widely considered the most skilled fetish carvers. Early Zuni fetishes are called “Ahlashiwe” meaning “stone ancients.” Today celebrated Zuni art carvers use turquoise, jet, serpentine, alabaster and other stones or antlers to carve traditional animals, mythological creatures, and even modern popular icons like Mickey Mouse. These carvings often feature additional stones carefully inlaid and may have an arrowhead or feathers attached to their back with sinew. These additional elements not only enhance the piece but are also meaningful symbols of protection and prayer.
Those who purchase authentic Native American carvings and fetishes are acquiring a powerfully symbolic and revered art form, the origins of which have great significance to Pueblo people. Our inventory of these incredible pieces can be viewed here.Explore Native American Fetishes