In honor of International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on August 9, the MOA features Kiowa Shield Dancers by artist Stephen Mopope (1898-1974), a celebrated Kiowa (Cáuigù) artist. Born Qued Koi, meaning Painted Robe, Mopope was a skilled painter, dancer, and flute player from Oklahoma. Born into a long lineage of artists, Mopope’s family facilitated his art training at a young age, after seeing him draw pictures in sand.
In 1916, Mopope attended St. Patrick’s Indian Mission School, where he received further art training from Sister Olivia Taylor, a Choctaw nun. A Kiowa agency field matron saw talent in Mopope and a few other Kiowa students and arranged for them to attend the University of Oklahoma’s School of Art. They were later joined in the program by other Kiowa artists and became known as the Kiowa Six, developing an international reputation for their distinctive style characterized by strong active figures, lack of figural shading, and less depth of field. Mopope was subsequently commissioned to paint a mural in the US Department of the Interior building in Washington, DC. His sixty-foot-long mural portrayed a Kiowa ceremonial dance. Mopope’s themes depict Kiowa life. His stylized Kiowa Shield Dancers combines lively figures with ceremonial accoutrement on a vibrant background, emphasizing the movement and liveliness of the dancers. Mopope’s art communicates the vitality of his people and the perseverance of their culture.