I loving being an artist because it helps me get away from reality for a bit and keeps me connected with my culture.
By: Roger Beyal Jr., Navajo Nation, Generation Indigenous Ambassador
Yá’át’ééh (Greetings), My name is Roger Beyal Jr. and I am a member of the Diné Nation from Brimhall, NM. My Clans are Tó Dich’ii’nii born for Kinłichii’nii, my maternal grandparents are Naneesht’ézhí Táchii’nii and my paternal grandparents are Ma’ii deeshgiizhnii.
The mediums that I do are drawing, painting, sewing, weaving, and beadwork. I first got introduced to beadwork and weaving by my late paternal grandmother. She played a big role in my life growing up and taught my siblings and I our culture and showed us a traditional outlook on life. She would always make my siblings and I help her throughout the process of preparing a rug from gathering the sheep wool, cleaning, and carding it. I also have family members who did drawing and painting which got me interested in doing it.
I first started off drawing in elementary school where I won my first art competition which gave me a confidence boost to continue drawing and eventually I moved on to painting. I attended my first pow wow at the Navajo Nation Fair when I was younger and this is where I was so mesmerized by the creativity of beadwork and sewing which inspired me to start beading and working with fabric.
Today, my inspiration comes from my culture and fellow artists who create traditional and contemporary pieces. It shows that there is not only one form of art and seeing pieces done by other artists gets me inspired to improve my work and try something new. One individual that I look up to is named Jt Willie who is a member of my tribe and his work is so intricate and done almost to perfection. He does traditional and contemporary pieces and is mostly known for his silver work and beadwork which have made him well known in the art world.
My favorite piece would have to be my beaded tie because it holds a lot of meaning to me. I call it “Diné Binahagha” as each design represents sand paintings that are an important aspect of my tribe. The being on the neck represents the rainbow that protects and guides us throughout life. The two beings at the bottom represent Mother Earth and Father Sky because as Indigenous people, we hold a special bond with all aspects of life. The star at the top represents the North Star because as Diné, we are told to pray in the early morning and the North Star is always present. I wanted to honor my culture and teachings with this piece.
Art work is something I hold dear as it allows me to express myself and my culture creatively. I loving being an artist because it helps me get away from reality for a bit and keeps me connected with my culture. Also, it opens new doors and new opportunities to improve my craft and showcase my work. I am honored to have the ability to be an artist and keep the essence of my culture alive.