Meet the Navajo artists of Shonto
SHONTO, AZ (Arizona Highways TV) - Whether related by blood or by clan, the artists of the village of Shonto have come home to celebrate their worlds of artistry.
“We have our umbilical cords buried here in this community,” said Shonto Begay, a world-renowned Navajo author and painter. He says painting a celebration of moments in his life. The day Arizona Highways TV met him was another one of those great moments. Baje Whitethorne Sr., Shonto’s brother and a renowned artist in his own right, brought together his family and fellow artists for this village celebration of art and food.
“It keeps us community of artists from here a very cohesive and creative unit, and I like that,” Shonto said.
“Families are sometimes hard to bring together,” Baje said. “Everybody’s on their own, doing their own thing. And something like this sort of brings back the unique connections of family.”
Baje says it’s important to gather together to teach the younger generations. “It’s just the idea of beginning something with them, and see where it goes,” he said. “They see how you work and how you present yourself.”
Elizabeth Whitethorne Benally is Shonto and Baje’s sister. She’s a Navajo folk artist and says while her brothers taught her to paint, she has established herself in other art mediums because she is inspired by different things than they are. She does quite a bit of texturing on canvas and carves reclaimed wood.
“A lot of influence comes from the people that are around me, especially the women in the community because I come from a long line of very strong, independent women,” she said,
Her exquisite pieces on wood clearly reflect that. But the talent doesn’t stop there. Shonto’s brother Tony is also a painter, and his daughter is a prodigy at just 7 years old.
All of them have grown up in Shonto, which means “sunshine springs.” That makes perfect sense because Shonto is a beautiful part of Navajo land and everything seems to grow there, including its array of homegrown artists.
Where is Shonto?
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