Derived from parer (to parry or turn aside) and fleche (arrow), the word parfleche was coined by 17th century French Canadian voyageurs and used to describe indigenous objects made from rawhide. Despite their common utilitarian function, parfleches served as one of the major mediums through which Plains Indian tribes could develop their long-standing tradition of painting. In fact, it is in large part due to the parfleche that tribal style emerged.
Even though parfleche painting developed simultaneously with beading and weaving, painting as an artistic tradition held particular importance in tribal culture. Believed to have evolved from tattooing, it had always been used as a conduit through which tribal and individual identity could be expressed. As such, many tribeswomen were deeply committed, some even religiously, to decorating their parfleche either with incised or painted motifs that were significant to them and/or the tribe.
For some tribes, such as the Cheyenne, the decorative processes which surrounded parfleche production were sacred. This particular relationship can be seen in Crow parfleche/beadwork motifs. Nevertheless, each tribe contributed a unique element to parfleche design. The painted and carved motifs we see today vividly demonstrate just how highly evolved the Plains artisans? Sense of color palette and spatial composition was.
In recent decades, this appreciation for parfleche painted designs has inspired many modern artists. Please contact me if you are unhappy in ANY WAY before posting any negatives remarks. I work very hard to assure authenticity and show item in detail including any flaws.
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