The Heated Debate Surrounding Navajo Sand Painting

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One of the problems that many societies face is the commercialization of their art work and sacred ceremonies and that's exactly what is happening to the Navajo people or Dine as they call themselves. This conflict has arisen because certain artists have been using the visual imagery of traditional Navajo sand paintings and the magery taken from them as subject matter that is being woven into rugs and artwork that is being sold for profit. This has resulted in a heated debate that has literally split the Navajo people into two separate groups, those that don't mind the use of sand painting imagery and those that feel that it is wrong to use the symbols and forms of a sacred ritual for common artwork. This has sparked such a storm of controversy because the sand paintings are a Navajo art that is used in healing ceremonies and the images created by the tribes medicine men that comprise these sand paintings help to channel powerful forces used for healing and continued health. That's why this has proven to be a divisive subject that continues to pit tribesmen against tribesmen and doesn't look like it will be resolved to anyone's satisfaction in the near future.

Those Navajo that support the use of sand painting imagery and symbolism feel that the use of it as an art form is a good method for preserving the symbolism that has been passed down from generation to generation so that future generations may be able to appreciate and benefit from the artwork as well. This desire to preserve the long standing tradition of sand painting started in the late 1940's as certain medicine men and weavers noticed fewer and fewer young people entering in apprenticeships to learn the sacred symbolism and decided that something had to be done. In an effort to save this information certain weavers started to weave the imagery in their rugs and permanent sand paintings were created as well with careful attention being paid to change the designs slightly to protect the...
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