H92.32.3

Mesi-Leader
1979-1992
6.5 in HIGH x 5 in WIDE
(16.51 cm HIGH x 12.70 cm WIDE)
Museum Purchase
H92.32.3

"Objects of Myth & Memory: American Indian Art at the Brooklyn Museum," The Oakland Museum, Feb 29 - May 24, 1992 California State Indian Museum

15 drawings on tan paper in ink and colored pencil from a series on ceremonial dances of the Chico Maidu by Harry Fonseca. In 1979 Harry Fonseca, working with Craig Bates, started on a series of drawings of the ceremonial dances of the Chico Maidu. Bates had collected information on dance regalia used in various dances from Fonseca's uncle, the late Henry Azbill (ca. 1896-1973), who had seen the dances as a young boy. Using that information, Fonseca created twenty-five images based on the ceremonial cycle at Chico. Fifteen of the images from that series, completed by Fonseca in January of 1992 were exhibited in conjunction with "Objects of Myth and Memory: American Indian Art from the Brooklyn Museum". "Last celebrated at Chico in 1906, the cycle of ceremonial dances of the Chico Maidu at the village of Mikchopdo were given as visible prayers to the Creator and various spirits; they began in the fall and continued through late spring. They were given in a large earth-covered structure called the kum, or ceremonial roundhouse. After the death of the village leader Holi Lafonso in 1906, the Chico Maidu people traveled to neighboring Patwin, Salt Pomo and Nomlaki villages to dance. Today, a few of the dances are being kept alive by Maidu and non-Maidu dancers. MESI - LEADER Directing the movements of Yohyoh and Du spirits in the Hesi ceremony motioning with his bow and fox skin quiver full of arrows was the Mesi, or Leader. The Mesi wore a headnet into which were thrust feathered hairpins which trembled with his every movement. A laya headpiece of magpie feathers was tied on the back of the head, and a flicker quill headband was worn over the forehead. With strong, graceful movements, the Mesi danced in front of the singers at the rear of the roundhouse, while a spirit dancer danced opposite him across the fire." (Craig Bates, exhibit text for "Objects of Myth and Memory: American Indian Art from The Brooklyn Museum.")

Picture This Information

This artifiact is part of the OMCA's Picture This website. More about the context and history of this artifacts is available at Picture This

About the Picture This web project: California's Perspectives on American History is a resource for teachers and students to learn about the experiences of diverse peoples of California by using primary source images from the Oakland Museum of California's collections. Organized into eleven time periods spanning from pre-1769 to the present, more than 300 photographs, drawings, posters, and prints tell stories from the perspectives of different ethnic groups. Historical contexts are provided to offer a framework of California's role in relation to American history.

The National Archives state that primary sources, "fascinate students because they are real and they are personal: history is humanized through them." Picture This invites students to examine the historical record, encouraging them to connect history with real people and explore how images tell stories and convey historical evidence about the human experience. History becomes more than just a series of facts, dates, and events.      

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