Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Sturm exhibit is a journey in Navajo weaving

Each piece is a journey for Navajo master weaver Roy Kady, and visitors to an exhibit of his work opening April 2 in Sturm Hall can take their own walk along his path.

Titled Na’ashjé’ii Biką’ Biyiin (Chant of the Male Spider) and co-curated by Kady and anthropology master’s student Teresa Montoya, the exhibit showcases completed weavings along with their raw components, including sheep’s wool in various shades, traditional weaving tools, and grasses, nuts and berries used to dye yarn.

Visitors will be able to “reach in the bowl, touch [a plant], smell it, crush it in their fingers, feel the wool and have that tactile experience that’s really important for a weaver,” says Montoya, who is half Navajo. “On the Navajo reservation we have our own plants and people can’t experience it, so we wanted to bring a little piece of it here.”

The sensory experience opens with a kick-off celebration starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday that will feature a lecture and demonstration by Kady and a sampling of foods based on the traditional Navajo diet, including lamb, blue corn puree, butternut squash tarts and Navajo tea.

Working in collaboration with Kady, Montoya set up the master’s exhibit in three sections: plant, animal and weaver. Visitors can see how animals and plants are used in the weaving process, and how all the elements come together in Kady’s completed pieces.

“Even though they’re segmented, they’re all interconnected,” Montoya says. “The traditional Western display of Navajo weavings is focused on the rug styles or maybe the commodity of weaving, or the aesthetic designs of it, but that’s really just one part of the process. This is looking at the whole process — it’s not just the rug on the wall, but in the Navajo perspective, the wool, the dye, everything is important because all those things are what goes into making the rug. We’re trying to show all those things in a holistic way.”

Kady is a fourth-generation master weaver who first learned the art from his grandmother. He lives in Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., where he raises his own sheep and goats for wool and teaches classes in Native American art. He is excited to share his craft with a DU audience.

“It’s my journey, what inspires me to weave some of the rugs that you see,” he says. “Also it’s a life journey of my personal life and what I was taught by my ancestors and my grandparents and my parents; what we refer to as ‘sheep is life.’ It’s a life way that fortunate ones like myself get to experience.”

Na’ashjé’ii Biką’ Biyiin (Chant of the Male Spider) runs from April 2–22 in Sturm 102, with an opening reception starting at 5:30 p.m. April 2. Regular hours are 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri. For more information, visit

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