Sonwai, Verma Nequatewa, Hopi Jeweler
Verma Nequatewa learned and carried forward the art of Hopi jewelry making and design in somewhat the same manner that Plato learned and carried forward the matter of philosophy. Whereas Plato learned from Socrates for 18 years and then opened his own academy, Verma studied and worked with her uncle, Charles Loloma, for 27 years before inheriting his position as the pre-eminent Hopi jeweler and moving to her own studio when the Loloma studio closed after his incapacitating accident.
Three great plateaus of sun baked, wind scrubbed Earth rise into the sky in Northeastern Arizona. These island mesas of smooth yellow sandstone boulders, lying in both tight, neat stacks and pell-mell jumbles, offer long vistas that seem to reach out beyond their distant horizons and into the dimension of timelessness. Long ago, a people were drawn to these mesas to settle. Perhaps they were the first to occupy these islands in the sky, perhaps not. No matter, the Hopi stayed, are still here after ‘time immemorial,’ and their traditions are still very much alive.
Charles Loloma redefined the concept of what Native American jewelry could be and his works are revered not only for their innovation but also for the skill required to create them and, ultimately, their astounding beauty. First learning the basics of metallurgy and lapidary from Charles, then the guiding concepts of form and content, Verma eventually came to understand the many rich subtleties and nuances that separate and define a masterpiece from a fine work of art. Always, however, her work remains true to a certain dictate— it must demonstrate respect for and pay homage to the Hopi way of life, which Verma practices daily as a traditional Hopi living on 3rd Mesa.
A great deal of the Hopi culture is about honoring who they are and respecting where they are. In the last 75 years, a few developed ingenious ways of materially expressing this landscape— their complete union with it—in works of art that recreate what it means to live in a land of uniquely transcendent beauty.
Verma has been a leading Native American jeweler for the past 30 years. Her works feature the highest quality materials available. The vision for each piece is guided by the materials that go into it and by Verma’s own intentions; that symbiosis of inspiration then allows for its creation. Verma learned and carries forward the understanding that, when a work is being constructed, there is only absolute precision with which every step and detail must be performed. The end result is jewelry that has distinguished styling, is refined yet visionary, and leads one to consider something else, something distant and ageless.