| For our
delight, reflection and mild terror, San Geronimo Day brings forth
the Sacred Clowns (Koshares), those scary black and white-striped
mischief-makers who victimize all who happen to catch their ever-searching
eyes. Bad attitudes and poor manners are spotted with uncanny accuracy
and instantly imitated. Society at large is under the Koshares'
of the Hopi and Pueblo peoples, inspired by divine spirits, teach
traditional native ways. They form a bridge between the material
and spiritual worlds, always contrasting the sublime and the ridiculous.Their
antics impact most individuals and organizations within the Pueblo.
Complex topics at Taos Pueblo (now you see it, now you don't) make
for a busy performance agenda most years.
We love clowns as amusing comic characters with painted faces, dressed
in absurd costumes. The Greeks and Romans produced padded, bald-headed
buffoons with gigantic dildos strapped around their waists. The
Italians created Harlequin and Pantaloon, France, the tragic white-faced
Pierrot, while the circus clown with baggy pants and oversized feet
originated in Germany. Koshares are more in the tradition of the
jester of the Middle Ages, who amused by offering unwelcomed advice
while mirroring society.
appear on Taos Pueblo rooftops around 2pm. Loud, boisterous clown-talk
shoots across the Pueblo Plaza as they tumble, stumble, bumble and
fly across rooftops. Encounters with bystanders occur as the merry
tricksters scurry toward the selling-stalls. An enduring clown theme
is displaying societies passion for the marketplace. Vendors signal
the impending arrival of the Koshares by covering merchandise with
large blankets and heavy plastic sheets. Otherwise it will be taken
by the macabre pranksters. Usually a token gift, a piece of fruit
or other edibles, is placed on top of the covering, in hopes the
clowns will grab the offering and quickly depart. Nobody wants a
direct encounter with the masters of biting social commentary.
One year a tourist couple, decked
out in cowboy hats, turquoise and silver, is shoveling food into
their mouths with gusto. Suddenly out of nowhere two sacred ones
appear directly in front of them. Each clown grabs a paper-plate
and brings it up close to his black painted smile, imitating the
tourists in detail before returning the plates empty. Off they scamper,
snatching a Native American infant for the ice-water treatment.,
The tiny infant is held aloft like a loaf of bread as they run down
to the river. Natives consider infant dunking a blessing of strength
for the child.
The style of performance
is improvisational interaction. The audience is a major player.
The tricksters represent us, mimicking our behavior, acting like
children who can't behave. The juxtaposition of sacred impulse and
pedestrian reality creates a unique and meaningful experience for
to San Geronimo Day gather around the towering pole at the center
of the plaza. Don't sit there all day waiting. The clowns are all
around creating a varied array of vignettes, many with ribald sexual
content. Follow them as they dash from adventure to adventure. Late
in the afternoon they disappear for a period. Just when you think
they may not be returning, their corn-husked heads become visible
in the distance bobbing toward the greased pole.
The final act involves a slow circling of the pole. They start at
the outer edge of the cleared arena pantomiming a search, ignoring
the pole at the center. Their circling draws them closer and closer
to the pole. The first clowns to arrive at the pole grab a rope
hanging from the pole. Other clowns grab the end of the rope and
lift the other one into the air and circle the pole running. It's
a riot enjoyed by all.
point they find the treasures secured at the top and begin comic
attempts to climb the pole. Burlap bags of unknown delights, placed
next to a deer or a goat, tease the imagination. Acrobatic negotiations
to climb the pole are always hilarious, filled with mockery and
ridicule as they continue in their roles as keepers of the traditions.
Better watch out, you may get caught with your pants down.