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Kachina: Clown

What do you call the Hopi dancers dressed up like someone in black and white prison stripes, who makes fun of themselves and the audience? They are known as the Clown Kachinas.

Clown Kachinas are known as Koshari, Koyala, Hano, or Tewa on the three Hopi Mesas. The clowns provide amusement during Kachina ceremonies. Often shown eating watermelons, they behave in the usual manner of pueblo mischievious makers, engaging in loud and boisterous conversation, immoderate actions, and gluttony. They often subsitutute for drummers in the pueblo dances.

In the Hopi tradition, the Sacred Clown Kachina frequently disrupts and makes a holy mess out of some of the most vital and fundamental rituals.  The clown satirizes Hopi life by acting out and exaggerating improper behavior. Many times the actions of the clowns are meant to portray a lesson on behavior apparent in a tribal member. Their purpose is to show how overdoing anything is bad, not only for the individual, but for the Hopi people as well.

Said another way, the Kosharis play tricks, acts out absurd pantomimes, or cleverly mimic the spectators. They add a sense of humor to the more serious lessons of the Kachina dances and rituals. The Clown Kachina helps maintain community harmony by reminding the people at the dances of acceptable standards of behavior. The standards, like the Kachina themselves, become surrogate teachers and reminders of the “rules” for children, adolescents, and senior residents within the Native American communities. Humor can be a valuable teacher of cultural traditions and the Clown Kachina is an important messanger with that special delivery.