Wide Ruins native walks away with top Nizhoni Arts Market prize

By Glenda Rae Davis
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, September 13, 2012

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(Times photo – Paul Natonabah, Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Elementary students participate in a mural project during 66th annual Navajo Nation Fair Kids Day on Sept. 6.

SECOND FROM THE TOP: The public browses inside Gorman Hall, which showcased a variety of art work during the Nizhoni Arts Market during the 66th annual Navajo Nation Fair.

THIRD FROM THE TOP: Navajo rug weaver Geneva Shabi from Wide Ruins, Ariz., poses for the camera Sept. 5 at the 66th annual Navajo Nation Fair Nizhoni Arts Market in Window Rock.

FOURTH FROM THE TOP: DuWayne Chee Sr., who lives in Sawmill, Ariz., poses next to his "On The Winds Of A Prayer" wood carving Sept. 5 at the 66th annual Navajo Nation Fair Nizhoni Arts Market in Window Rock.

A lthough the repetition of "The winner of…" was becoming somewhat monotonous, it was still an exciting time for the award winners at the 3rd annual Nizhoni Arts Market.

Winners were announced on Sept. 5 with the Best of Show winner taking home $5,000.

Taking home that prize was Geneva Shabi, originally from Wide Ruins, Ariz. Her work earned her a total of $7,000 at the event. Her rug, which highlights shades of green and brown, also took home a first-place ribbon for the fiber arts category.

Shabi was unavailable for comment.

Earning the Fire Rock Navajo Casino Choice Award was Dewayne Chee Sr., from Fort Defiance, with his wooden sculpture he called, "Wings on a Prayer."

Having his son, Dewayne Chee Jr., help him with the piece, the dad said, "We collaborate a lot with our works. This particular piece was meant to be a prayer and a blessing for the artist and their artwork. I'm grateful for winning the award."

Chee is originally from Lower Greasewood, Ariz., and has been sculpting for 23 years.

"I'm looking forward to what the younger generation will bring to the competition," the dad added. "I always look to inspire young artists. I believe that it is possible for anybody to create art, it's about listening and hearing what your surroundings are trying to say and bringing that out in your art piece."

In addition to those awards, there was also a President's Choice, a Vice President's Choice and a Navajo Nation Museum's Horizon Choice.

For Vice President award winner Aaron B. Anderson, from Gallup, N.M., taking home his respective award was a humbling experience.

"I don't do artwork to win prizes or be recognized," he said. "I do it because I love it. It's a wonderful feeling that my creator was able to bless me with this talent."

Anderson said the piece chosen for the award was his first necklace.

"I'm always working on bracelets," he said. "A friend asked me if I could make anything other than that and told him I could make anything. So, he asked me to make a necklace and I drew a sketch real quick and began working on it."

The award-winning piece called "Waterbird" is a sterling silver necklace with large turquoise nuggets and crosses.

"The crosses represent the fact that I come from two different backgrounds – that being Navajo culture and Baptist," he said. "The two cultures are being combined in one piece. I'm happy they chose it and that someone found it beautiful."

The President award was given to Alexander Becenti, who is from Fort Wingate, N.M., for a storyteller belt, hat and bracelet.


The NNM Horizon Choice Award was given to Edward Charlie for his piece entitled "Cubism." The inlay necklace had different stones, including turquoise on a chain.

A total of 19 first-place winners each took home $2,000. Second place received $700 and Honorable Mention won $300.

The Fire Rock Navajo Casino in Church Rock, N.M, donated the prize money.

"I think it was way better than last year. I know the artists were very happy with the outcome," said event coordinator Clarenda Begay. "People were just ranting and raving about the setup of the exhibit. The team that I worked with was really great. Overall everybody was very happy with the Arts Market. They all did very well."

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