Manymules, Samuel – 11″ Tall Jar with Yei-Bi-Chi Figure and Drum Design
This is an unusual tall jar by Samuel Manymules. It has a tall, cylindrical shape. It is coil-built and slipped red. One side has a Yei-bi-Chei figure etched into the clay. The figure is in relief and realistic in design. What is a Yei-bichi?
“Yei bichei (Yébîchai), or “maternal grandfather of the yei”, is another name of Talking God who often speaks on behalf of the other Holy People. (He, along with Growling God, Black God, and Water Sprinkler, were the first four Holy People encountered by the Navajo.). “Yei” (pronounced “yay”) is the Navajo name for the benevolent supernatural beings who bring their healing power to medicinal ceremonies still performed today.
As the jar is turned it is incised to look like a drum! Not only is it a complicated form, to keep the walls of the jar so straight, but the etched designs are exceptional. The piece is stone polished and then traditionally fired. The coloration is dynamic and vivid! The variation of colors from black to red to brown gives the piece a sense of motion on the surface. The browner areas are where it was fired to a higher temperature. After the firing, the jar is covered with pinon pitch in the traditional way expected of Navajo pottery. The jar is signed on the bottom, “SM”. It is extraordinary vessels like this that keep Samuel among the top Navajo potters working today.