Saturday, April 07, 2018

Part II, Yoeme Mask Carvers and Artists : La Familia Martinez by Antonio SolisGomez

Frank ‘Chico’ Martinez began carving when he was twelve, learning from his uncle Luis Garcia. He achieved a degree of fame, some of his masks hang at the University of Arizona Museum, carving with very rudimentary tools, three flat chisels, a couple of files, a rasp, a small hand saw and some sand paper. He painted with ordinary acrylic paint and when needed, used horse hair. He died young in 2006, leaving his wife Feliciana with two daughters and two sons. While he lived, Chico sold his masks to tourists and locals for $50.00 and gave them as gifts to the Pascolas. The Wolf Mask is the only mask that Feliciana has that was made by late her husband. 

Wolf Mask

 Her house in the Old Pascua Village is modest and houses three generations as she has been raising some of her grandchildren including Santiago who has taken up the tradition of carving. Her son Eddie who is also a carver, also lives there.

Feliciana works for the Tucson Unified Schools as a classroom aide. Hired originally to teach Yoeme language and culture to children, for reasons unknown to her that assignment ended. The school still utilizes some of her knowledge but mostly she works with individual children that need extra help. Although not a carver Feliciana makes clay figures, depicting Yoeme figures, Deer Dancers, Pascola’s, Fariseos etc with modeling clay. She says that at one time she used regular clay but her kitchen oven was deteriorating from the firings.

A completed clay deer dancer

Feliciana, raised by her grandmother who spoke only her native language was seeped in the history and traditions of Yoeme and is one of the few who still speak the language. She and about sixteen others helped compile a Yoeme dictionary and she helps pass on traditions and culture to children at the school.
Feliciana working on a clay deer dancer

Santiago works with the same rudimentary tools used by his grandfather Chico but the chisels were dull and wanting to give something back I gave him an Arkansas Stone and showed him how to sharpening the chisels. His uncle Eddie who was not home uses the same tools for his carvings. Below is a walking stick that he has recently carved.

Santiago 3rd generation carver. His goat mask is the one on the left

Santiago's mask in prgoress

Mask made by Eddie

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