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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
 
 
 
HOPI
Arizona
Sio Shalako Kachina
1910–40
Wood, paint, feathers, horse hair, leather thongs, string, and thread

22 x 16 1/8 x 5 1/4 inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Miss Ima Hogg

Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, & the Americas

Arts of North America
 
ABOUT

Kachina dolls represent spiritual beings called kachinas, and Sio Shalako is a kachina believed to bring rain. A tall, shoulderless figure, he wears clothing made from rows of eagle feathers. He has large, prominent eyes, a green face, and horns.

Kachinas are supernatural beings who embody the spirits of living things, inanimate objects, and ancestors who have become a part of nature. They can be male or female, and they represent aspects of the natural world: clouds, animals, plants, human qualities, and even death.

Native Americans of the Southwest United States believe that kachinas come to live amongst them from late December until July. During this time, ceremonies take place in which men of the pueblo dress and perform dances as incarnations of the spirits. 

Kachina "dolls" are not playthings. They are carved-and-painted figures that represent the kachinas. The men give them to women and children. The dolls are hung in homes, where they bring blessings upon the household and teach children about the different spirits. Carved from cottonwood or pine, kachina dolls play an important role in the Hopi and Zuni religions.