While watching the earthquake and tsunami in Japan unfold on TV from Phoenix, Arizona, award-winning Navajo artist Raymond C. Yazzie immediately considered how he could help the nation, reported the Navajo Times.
The renowned silversmith, who has many Japanese friends and customers, thought of an online art auction. “I’ve been in the business for 42 years and have developed a great friendship with a lot of artists,” Yazzie said in a video requesting artist submissions and donations.
Yazzie reached out to Darryl Dean Begay and Lyndon Tsosie, two prominent American Indian artists who have garnered a following. The group deemed the charitable effort Native American Artists for Japan (NAAJ), dedicated to bringing Native artisans together to provide monetary relief to the victims and survivors of the disasters in Japan through auctioning American Indian art on eBay. All money will be donated to the Red Cross to help the people of Japan, Yazzie said in the video. The nonprofit Southwestern Association for Indian Art, which hosts the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, will manage the money generated and ensure all proceeds go to the Red Cross fund for Japan, Begay told the Navajo Times.
“When the tsunami hit Japan, we all had our own emotions but my chei (grandfather) by clan, Raymond C. Yazzie, who is a well-known jeweler and a top jeweler in the art scene, actually wanted to do something instead of sitting around and wishing he could do this and that,” Begay told the Navajo Times. “He got hold of me and Lyndon Tsosie and he told us, ‘Let’s do something about it.'”
Yazzie’s idea took root and rapidly gained support from artisans across the southwest and beyond. Within 24 hours of announcing NAAJ on Facebook, more than 100 artisans were on board, reported examiner.com. “It caught on like wildfire,” Begay told the Navajo Times. “Artists wanted to donate. They were all excited.”
Navajo oil painter and large-scale drawings artist Tony Abeyta, who donated his multicolor image of a yei done in acrylic to start at $2,000, and Navajo contemporary jewelry artist Michael Roanhorse, who also actively supports the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, pledged their work for the benefit auction on eBay, according to the examiner.com. Pledges also flowed in from jewelry artisans Verma Nequatewa (Sonwai), Perry Shorty (Navajo) and McKee Platero (Navajo).
The first eBay auction kicks off today, Tuesday, April 5, and features hand-made American Indian art. Lasting seven days, NAAJ will post more artwork the following week. The art up for auction will include a donation from Abeyta’s private collection: the esteemed “Three Mudheads,” a stone lithograph by legendary Hopi artist and jeweler Charles Loloma, reported the Navajo Times. The starting price is $1,500.
“Native American Artists for Japan has turned into a gigantic bubble of love and help to reach out to those affected by this disaster,” Tsosie told the examiner.com.
To find out more information about Native American Artists for Japan or to donate, visit www.nativeamericanartistsforjapan.com.