The Portland Art Museum (PAM) in Portland, Oregon has an exhibit of Mojave Indian ceramics. The traditional territory of the Mojave (also spelled Mohave) was along both sides of the Colorado River in what is now California and Arizona. The name Mojave is a corruption of their native name Aha-makave which means “beside the water.” The Mojave language is a part of the Yuman language family.
The Mojave made at least three distinctive forms of pottery. In making pottery, clay was tempered with crushed sandstone and the vessels were built up with a coiling process. Before firing, the vessels were decorated with a yellow ochre pigment which turned to a dull red when fired. Firing was done over an open wood fire.
According to PAM:
“Considered a woman’s art, Mojave craftswomen traditionally made ceramics during the dry season in a location outside of the home. Utilitarian pots for storage, cooking, and eating were generally plain or dcorated with simple geometric designs in yellow ochre which turned red in the firing process. The advent of the tourist trade brought adaptations to these wares, such as the addition of handles to the pots.”
The Mojave craftswomen also created human and animal effigies, and dolls. According to PAM:
“Unlike utilitarian ceramics, Mojave effigies and dolls were painted brightly, and were modeled from unfired clay, making the figurines quite fragile. Mojave women produced both human and animal effigies, in both figural and vessel forms. Craftswomen also created clay dolls to sell to tourists, emphasizing the head, eyes, and large feet of the dolls, which allowed the figures to stand unaided. Male and female dolls were dressed traditionally and painted with different tattoo patterns to represent their gender. Male dolls wear cloth breechclouts while female dolls appear in cloth skirts. Both wear beaded necklaces and earrings, and horsehair for hair.”
More American Indian museum exhibits
Indians 101: Wenatchi Indians (museum exhibit)
Indians 101: Columbia River Basketry (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Feathered Pomo Baskets (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: California Women's Woven Hats (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Cahuilla Pottery (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Pueblo Pottery (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Zuni Fetishes (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Killer Whale Potlatch Feast Bowl (museum exhibit)