June 27, 2012

Piki, the Hopi Gift of Ceremony

Ruby Chimerica shares her piki making

Visit the Autry Museum's upcoming show: Katsina in Hopi Life, featuring remarkable Katsina dolls from the Autry’s Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, provides a glimpse into Hopi life and culture. The show was curated by Susan Secakuku, from Sipaulovi, Hopi Second Mesa, Arizona.
My own piki making experience below the break. 
Not so many years ago, I was visiting a friend in Bacavi, a Hopi village on Third Mesa. She invited me to watch while she made piki, the ceremonial 'bread' made by Hopi women to give to others to honor ceremony. 
We walked to a sandstone structure beside her home, tiny and roofed with curling sheets of rusted tin. We entered the hut through a wooden door where I stepped into a world apart. Blackened rafters held talismans placed by piki makers long gone, feathers, stones, pieces of cloth. The smell of burned juniper enveloped the space. The mud floor, buffed to a soft shine from hundreds of moccasin feet, glowed in ribbons of sunlight streaming through roof cracks.
My friend lowered herself into a seat on the edge of a hole in the floor, her legs bent under her. The obsidian slab in front of her, handed down from her Great Great Grandmother, had been heating from the fire below the stone. Smoke rose lazily through the chimney.
Swiping her hand through a blue corn flour slurry in a speckled enamel bowl, she quickly spread the liquid 'dough' across the blazing hot stone. She did this again and again until the entire stone was covered in blue. As the piki heated up, cooking to a soft crisp, my friend deftly rolled the dough across the surface into a paper-thin log of sorts. She eventually filled a small cardboard box with the piki rolls safely stored for future sharing.


 

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