Mary Pember: Fancy Sky selected for NMAI program

"When I think of my godfather, Mezinaanakwad, Fancy Sky, I picture him sitting calmly in his cozy rez kitchen early in the morning, sipping coffee while listening to jazz. He seems the very picture of serenity until I notice his hands buried in colorful strands of yarn, furiously working the threads into fantastically intricate patterns for bags and belts. Knowing him and his love for mathematics, I also imagine I can just barely hear a million tiny perfectly synchronized gears whirring away in his head.

He is lost in what he describes as an addiction, finger weaving. The essence of simplicity, the ancient art of finger weaving requires only fibers, a stick on which to anchor the fibers, and fingers. Its deceptive simplicity, however, requires a deep understanding of mathematics. According to Mezinaanakwad, finger weaving offers a perfect example of the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic, which states that, any integer greater than 1 can be expressed as a unique product…(I apologize, readers, that I must stop here in any further discussion of mathematical theory. I can already feel my pulse and breathing rate increasing as I approach the dreaded, inexplicable and embarrassing fear zone of math. )

Mezinaanakwad, whose English name is Dennis White, has a great love of all things mathematical. He sees numbers everywhere and is endlessly fascinated by the patterns in finger weaving as expressions of multiples and symmetry.

I recently learned that Dennis will be sharing his love of finger weaving with the public in Washington D.C., at the National Museum of the American Indian. He was chosen as one of four people in the U. S. for the Museum’s Artist Leadership Program. "

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Fancy Sky Goes to Washington (The Daily Yonder 12/8)

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