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Zuni fetishes once served only ceremonial and religious purposes. The depictions of the animals were not meant to be extremely realistic as the carver was expressing the qualities of the subject, exaggerating those which were considered to have great power in their religion. Today, the audience for such carvings has expanded to non-Natives and Zuni carvers are producing pieces more for artistic merit, although the concept of showcasing an animal's best attributes still guides the Zuni carver. Materials used include jet, shell, coral, bone, and antler but the most important is turquoise. A fetish made from other material may often have a piece of turquoise added to it, perhaps in a prayer bundle carried on its back. Non-traditional animals such as dinosaurs and camels have appeared in recent years and women such as Lena Boone (the daughter of Edna Leki, believed to be the first female fetish carver) are taking their rightful place alongside male carvers. Fetishes are appealing not only because of their history but also because of their size, the materials from which they are made, and personal signficance to the owner.

One of our artists, Mike Mahooty, has a guide to the care of fetishes and what they mean.

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