Sahmie, Ida – “Day Chant” 7 Figure Tile
This is a complex tile by Ida Sahmie. It is the Day Chant Dance with seven male Yei-bi-chi dancers in a line. They are painted with natural clay slips and bee-weed (a plant) for the black. The background area is fully polished the natural color of the clay. In the background, there are mesas, clouds, and even birds! Note how she has also painted the shadows of each dancer extending to the bottom of the tile. Ida also incises into the clay for the faces and the bodies, leather, and masks. She is a daughter-in-law of Priscilla Nampeyo and Ida continues to make beautifully formed pottery with wonderfully complex designs. She has won numerous awards for her pottery at events such as Santa Fe Indian Market. She is the only Navajo potter creating this unique style of ethnographic pottery. It is signed on the back in the clay, “Ida Sahmie”.
“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.) He is invoked (along with eight other male yei) in the “Night Chant” or “Nightway” sometimes simply called “Yei bichei,” a nine-night ceremony in which masked dancers personify the gods.”