Alex Seowtewa was born into the shiwi, the Zuni Tribe. His mother, Annie, was of the Sandhill Crane Clan and his father, Charlie Chuyate of the Parrot Clan, was a painter, Zuni historian, and religious leader. After high school, Alex received a one year art scholarship to the University of St. Joseph in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Alex served in the Korean war and, in 1970, he proposed a series of painted Kachinas for the walls of the nave of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, built in 1629 in the Zuni village and abandoned in 1820. Kachinas had originally appeared on the walls of the church to remind people to attend mass and lead their lives according to the teachings of the church and Zuni traditions. Because Catholicism is an integral part of Zuni life, Alex painted new kachinas describing the similarities between Catholicism and Zuni spirituality which would document and preserve Zuni history for future generations.
By 1983, Alex, with the help of his sons, Gerald and Kenneth, completed 24 figures of kachinas and tribal religious leaders and three additional panels depicting traditional crops, birds and animals, and a kiva altar have been completed. Alex received both a National Endowment for the Arts Grant and a grant from the State of New Mexico to help finance the project.
Alex also received the award for Excellence in Art from the New Mexico Governor, the New Mexico Preservation Heritage Award from the New Mexico Cultural Affairs Office, and the Fine Artists Union Award as a part of a Soviet art and cultural exchange program.
Published on May 1, 2014
This 24 minute documentary is about Alex Seowtewa. He is an artist and a member of the Zuni Pueblo.
He worked on scaffolding for 30 years painting life sized sacred dancers on the inside of the 400 year old Zuni Pueblo Church.
The film is narrated by Peter Coyote.
Image courtesy FRIENDS OF ALEX SEOWTEWA