Sandpainting is the art of painting ritual paintings for religious or healing ceremonies. It is also referred to as drypainting.
Sandpainting is practiced by Native Americans in the Southwestern United States, by Tibetan monks, by Indians, Australian Aborigines, and some are known to be made by Latin Americans on certain Christian holy days.
- 1 Native American sandpainting
- 2 Tibetan sandpainting
- 3 Modern Culture
- 4 Other sandpainting
- 5 References
Native American sandpaintingNavajo sandpainting
In the sandpainting of southwestern Native Americans (the most famous of which are the Navajo), the Medicine Man (or Hatałii) paints loosely upon the ground of a hogan, where the ceremony takes place, or on a buckskin or cloth tarpaulin, by letting the colored sands flow through his fingers with control and skill. There at least 600 to 1000 different sandpaintings that are recognized among the Navajos. They are not viewed as static objects, but as living things that should be treated with great respect. There may be more than thirty different sandpaintings associated with one ceremony alone.
The colors for the painting are usually made with naturally colored sand, crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal, and a mixture of charcoal and gypsum (blue). Brown can be made by mixing red and black; red and white make pink. Other coloring agents include corn meal, flower pollen, or powdered roots and bark.
The paintings are for healing purposes only. Many of them contain images of yeibicheii, or the Holy People. While creating the painting, the medicine man will chant, asking the yeibicheii to come into the painting and help heal the patient.
When the medicine man finishes painting, he checks its accuracy. The order and symmetry of the painting symbolize the harmony that the patient wishes to reestablish in his or her life. However accurate the sandpainting is will determine how effective it will be as a sacred tool. The patient will then be asked to sit on the sandpainting, and the medicine man will then proceed with the healing chant. The sandpainting acts like a portal for spirits to come and go, and also attracts them. Sitting on the sandpainting helps the patient absorb some of their power, while in turn the Holy People will absorb the illness and take it away. Afterwards, the sandpainting has done its duty, and is then considered to be toxic, since the illness is absorbed into it. That is the reason they must be disposed of afterwards. Because of the sacred nature of the ceremonies, the sandpaintings are begun, finished, used, and destroyed within a twelve hour period.Navajo sandpainting
The ceremony involving sandpaintings are usually done in sequences, termed 'chants', lasting a certain number of days depending on the ceremony, and for which a fresh, new sandpainting is made for each day.
There are some Navajo laws and taboos surrounding the sandpaintings, and that protect its holiness:
-Women are not supposed to sing the chants associated with the yeibicheii. This is because the ceremony has a possibility of injuring an unborn child, and because of a taboo preventing menstruating women from attending. Post-menopausal women are therefore far more likely to be chanters or diagnosticians.
-One is not supposed to pretend to be a medicine man creating a sandpainting, or mock the medicine man in any way by mimicking him. Both the medicine man and the yeibicheii themselves may punish you.
-Authentic sandpaintings are rarely ever photographed, as to not disrupt the flow of the ceremony. Medicine men will seldom allow outsiders inside a sacred ceremony for many reasons. However, because so many outsiders wish to see the art of sandpainting, medicine men will create them for exhibition purposes only, using reversed colors and variations. To create an authentic sandpainting solely for viewing purposes would be a profane act. The sandpaintings one sees in shops and on the Internet are commercially produced and contain purposeful errors, as the real sandpaintings are considered sacred.
- Main article: sand mandala
The sand is carefully placed on a large, flat table. The construction process takes several days, and the mandala is destroyed shortly after its completion. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of life.
The mandala sand painting process begins with an opening ceremony, during which the lamas, or Tibetan priests, consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music, and mantra recitation.
On the first day, the lamas begin by drawing an outline of the mandala to be painted on a wooden platform. The following days see the laying of the colored sands, which is effected by pouring the sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-pur. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its serrated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid.
Formed of a traditional prescribed iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols (e.g.: Ashtamangala and divine attributes of yidam), seed syllables, mantra, the sand-painted mandala is used as a tool or instrument for innumerable purposes, amongst which re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants is elementary.
In modern days, sandpainting is most often practiced during Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico and the United States. Streets are decorated with sand paintings that are later swept away, symbolizing the fleeting nature of life. Of note are the sandpaintings done during the Seattle Dia De Muertos Festival.
- Rangoli, Kolam and Rangavalli, Indian traditions of sandpainting with various materials.
- Eugene Baatsoslanii Joe, Mark Bahti, Oscar T. Branson, Navajo Sandpainting Art, (Treasure Chest Publications, Inc, 1978.) ISBN 0-918080-20-7
- Gold, Peter (1994). Navajo & Tibetan sacred wisdom: the circle of the spirit. ISBN 0-89281-411-X. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International.
- Villasenor, David. Tapestries in Sand: The Spirit of Indian Sandpainting. California, Naturegraph Company, Inc. 1966.
- Wilson, Joseph A.P. "Relatives Halfway Round The World: Southern Athabascans and Southern Tarim Fugitives," Limina, 11. 2005. pp. 67-78. URL: http://www.limina.arts.uwa.edu.au/__data/page/90432/wilson.pdf
- Artist David Cadran. URL: http://david.cadran.free.fr