Press: KESHI...The Zuni Connection
by Nancy Ellis
in Focus/Santa Fe
This quaint Santa Fe shop has earned a worldwide reputation as the source for one of the finest selections of authentic Zuni art.
The woman who has just walked in the door has been studying Zuni fetishes for several months prior to this, her first trip to Santa Fe. Having finally arrived, she is directed downtown to Keshi, tucked inside the Santa Fe Village, a collection of small shops near the corner of Alameda and Don Gaspar.
Her eyes widen as she takes in the incredible inventory packed into Keshi’s small space, which feels more like a trading post than a store. “This is THE place, isn’t it?” she asks co-owner Robin Dunlap. Smiling broadly, Dunlap instantly agrees: “Yes, this is it.”
“It” is Keshi (pronounced kay-she), the Zuni connection, a business that began as a cooperative in 1982, providing a direct link for Zuni artisans to the lucrative Santa Fe market. The store offers one of the largest selections of Zuni fetishes in the world, purchased directly from the artists, as well as some of the best contemporary Zuni jewelry and fetish necklaces available anywhere.
Fetishes in the form of animals and corn maidens originate in the Zuni belief that by honoring an animal and its unique behavior or “medicine,” one may recognize that quality in oneself. Keshi also offers fine examples of Zuni pottery, stone carvings by Salvador Romero of Cochiti pueblo, and exquisite medicine bags by Athabaskan artist Shilah Love.
Dunlap’s connection to Zuni is personal. In the early 1980’s she lived in Zuni pueblo with her young daughter while teaching sixth grade there. Impressed by the friendly and talented Zunis, she was eager to assist them with a co-op that could provide more income directly to the artists.
Named “Keshi” after the traditional greeting of the Zuni people, the co-op was established in 1982, and Dunlap became its director. Well-received from the beginning, Keshi became an outlet for many Zuni artists, and in 1989 the founding group sold the business to Dunlap.
It’s obvious to loyal clientele and newcomers that Dunlap and her daughter/partner Bronwyn Fox love what they do. “We are very focused here,” comments Dunlap, “and education has always been an important part of our philosophy. We maintain a close relationship with the people whose work we represent,” Fox adds, naming several prominent contemporary carvers who were her classmates at Zuni.
With the proliferation of fake Indian jewelry and crafts, Dunlap and Fox continue to ensure Keshi’s longstanding reputation for authenticity. Their knowledge, enthusiasm, and direct connection to their artists make Keshi THE source for the best in Zuni arts.
reprinted with permission of Focus/Santa Fe