“Yung ya pu” Hopi Basketry Collection

Photo Credit: Rick Ruess, 2018

The Hopi word for Third Mesa Basketry is “Yung ya pu”, a handcraft tradition that is indigenous to the Americas.

The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office website is a good reference for a history of the Yungyapu Basket Weaving tradition by Hopi women who carry on this indigenous knowledge of basketry, the oldest craft from the Basket Maker Period of 100 to 500 AD. These ancestors were the “moti senom”, the first people.

Yungyapu, the twining basketry knowledge predates pottery. Isomeric design originated in pre-ceramics Pueblo culture — in the weaving of yucca-strip sifter baskets. Around 1000 CE, isomeric patterning arose as an innovation. Ortman observed, “A creative weaver noticed that if you play around with the skipping pattern in the plaiting process, you can create these complimentary figure-ground designs. Pueblo people really ran with that realization and elaborated on, or seized upon, the phenomenon as an expression of something deeper.”

Red, yellow, white and black are the basic yungyapu colors. Red comes from a variety of plants. Black from sunflower seeds. Yellow from a tea we call hohoisi. White from kaolin clay.

The symbolism and tradition in Hopi yungyapu designs link each unique handmade yungyapu to other parts of Hopi life, past and present. All traditional yungyapu designs have a name, meaning and purpose.

The small yungyapu are gifted from the katsinas. The medium yungyapu are gifted to males for their services as dance partners in the summer social dances as part of the female dance partner’s payback. The larger yungyapu were prizes earned by males during the ceremonial footraces that take place throughout the year.

Think about how the right and left brain operates to bring out the antiquity of designs in the minds of Hopi women today. The weaver thinks about shape, form, mathematical calculations to form an unseen visual. She thinks about her responsibility or contribution to a ceremony and cultural standards, beliefs and purpose for each yungyapu.

One researcher said, “A basket maker must command almost encyclopedic botanical information”. This knowledge comes from the beginning time and is our birthright.

Hopi Basket Weaving Techniques

There are three basic types of Hopi Basket Weaving techniques.

  1. Tsa’yan pi. Utility baskets made of plaited yucca straps.
  2. Yungyapu, basketry using a twining technique of dyed rabbit brush and a rib foundation of dune brush twigs.
  3. Poo ta, A bundle of wild grass as a foundation and yucca in a coiling technique.

Each technique calls for certain basic plant materials. Yungyapu, the Third Mesa basketry are made from sivaapi (rabbit brush) and sii wi (dune brush) with a yucca strip finish. 

All materials are gathered from the natural vegetation in northern Arizona. We have been in a long drought period so many of the natural fiber materials have dried up and harvesting has been sparse for the past few years.

Different types of yungyapu have unique uses, such as utilitarian carrying plaques, trays, bowls, sifters, and serving a variety of everyday and ceremonial functions.

Bowls, deep form baskets such as burden baskets, are woven by using coiling or twilled techniques. The burden baskets, woven by men were used to haul loads on the back of a person or animal. Peach baskets were commonly used to carry fruit up the mesas.

There is a conservative continuation of traditional patterns with no radical or extreme departures from ancestral tradition. Weavers do not alter the basic designs that came with the Hopi clans from the beginning time. There are traditional boundaries that we observe even today.

A full length lecture and demonstration of this family collection is available for presentation by interested parties. Contact paaqaviinc@gmail.com

Reserved rights: MFredericks, 2023

One Comment on ““Yung ya pu” Hopi Basketry Collection

  1. These are so beautiful !! I love reading about why they were created and all the fibers and dyes used to make them. Thanks for posting. Very educational!

    https://www.dorothygraden.com Dorothy Graden Artist LLC

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