Nesjaja Hatali (framed) by Steve Henderson
Nesjaja Hatali was a medicine man of the Navajo people in the late 19th century. The painting interpretation by Steve Henderson of Nesjaja Hatali is based upon the photograph taken by Edward S. Curtis, the archives of which are in The North American Indian Collection housed at Northwestern University Library.
Curtis’s task was a monumental one – documenting what remained of traditional First People culture a full generation after the official end of 19th century brutal conflict between the U.S. Government and the Native American people. The advent of photography allowed Curtis to visually capture a time and place, a people and an historical lifestyle, which is no more.
Steve’s painting interpretation of Curtis’s sepia-toned photograph adds color to Nesjaja’s skin, clothing, and jewelry, with an emphasis upon the rich tones of the turquoise and silver necklaces, set against the deep brown of Nesjaja Hatali’s skin.
This is a man who has lived much outdoors, with the weathering of the skin evident. There is a strong set to the jaw, a strength to the structure of the face, that causes the viewer to pause in silence and respect. Looking away from the camera, Nesjaja Hatali appears to be in deep thought, in a state of quiet reflection that implies a sense of wisdom.
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