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Comanches ready ornaments for display at annual Treefest

With their third entry into the Red Earth Art Center's Christmas Treefest, the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center (CMNCC) is readying personal bits of beauty to enthrall and educate through the holidays. 

The Comanche Nation is among the 25 tribes to participate in this year's Treefest celebration which opens Monday for an eight-week run at the Red Earth Art Center, No. 6 Santa Fe Plaza in Oklahoma City. Other participating tribes are: Absentee Shawnee, Caddo, Cherokee, Cheyenne and Arapaho, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Citizen Potawatomi, Delaware, Hopi, Kaw, Muscogee Creek, Osage, Otoe Missouria, Sac and Fox, Seminole, Kiowa, Peoria, Quapaw and Pawnee. 

Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center Director Candy Morgan said the Comanches are among the original four other tribes to have participated in the inaugural Treefest in 2015. 

"It's something we've come to look forward to as the holidays draw near," Morgan said. "Treefest is a great opportunity to showcase the talented craftsmanship of our staff, but most importantly, it gives us a chance to educate people about the Comanche Nation."

Meticulous designs

The director led to a back supply/work room inside the museum where Michelle Timbo worked with focus. Raised by her grandparents  the Rev. Ned and Hilda (Mihesuah) Timbo  Morgan said Timbo paid close attention to the stories her grandparents share with her about the family and Comanche history. The detail of these oral tales fixed into form from mind to Timbo's paint brush as she painted meticulous designs on small cedar boxes. Finished, they looked akin to spiritual treasure chests. A slew of small gourd rattles rested readied in rows. They looked ready to almost be picked up and shaken creating music emanating from the entrance of a tepee on a Comanche Christmas Eve.

Manila folders become cradleboards

A generation's worth of Comanche cradleboards, each distinct and different, were highlighted in the bold primary colors symbolic of the Numunu. Morgan said each cradleboard was made by cutting patterns from a surplus of Manila folders in the storeroom. Despite the simplicity of their design, the nuance in design and execution transformed them into art. That took Timbo's touch, Morgan said. The ingenuity used for the army of babies inside called for bits of pantyhose and stuffing. The combined effect is stunning.

Manila folders came back into play as the shaped forms of the paper dolls dressed in cloth. They created crews of Comanche angels to join on the tree along with hand-painted horses carrying the distinctive markings the Lords of the Plains were known for. Timbo's handiwork with the tree skirting makes for all the elements to what will be a standout piece in the exhibit.

"Michelle has created some really stunning, one-of-a-kind Comanche ornaments," Morgan said.

The Lawton Constitution

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