Mallery Quetawki and her painting
By Rebecca Roybal Jones

Cultural Appreciation

UNM College of Pharmacy’s Resident Artist Shares Her Zuni Heritage on Google’s Homepage

On Nov. 1, Zuni painter and University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy resident artist Mallery Quetawki made her worldwide debut – if only for 24 hours. Her paintings on Google, the world’s largest search engine, were designed to commemorate Native American Heritage Month.

Though her work was highlighted only for a day on the search bar, people can use it to experiment with the Google Doodle weaving activity.

“You can still go in and you can still play the weaving game, and you can still click all the links that were shared, including the YouTube video,” Quetawki says.

Quetawki, a UNM alumna, says that over the summer she was approached by a couple of people asking if she would be willing to work on a large-scale art project. She had to sign nondisclosure agreements, and was then given the assignment.

In about six weeks – a very quick turnaround – she completed 24 paintings, eight of which were used for the Google installment.

The following was posted on Google on Nov. 1: “In honor of Native American Heritage Month in the U.S., today’s interactive Doodle – illustrated by Zuni Pueblo guest artist Mallery Quetawki – celebrates Zuni (A:shiwi) Native American fiber artist, weaver, and potter the late We:wa (wee-wah). As a Łamana (thah-mah-nah), the late We:wa was a revered cultural leader and mediator within the Zuni tribe, devoting their life to the preservation of Zuni traditions and history.” 

Mallery Quetawki and her painting
Mallery Quetawki and her painting that was featured on Google


It continues: “In the Zuni tribe, Łamana is the recognized third gender outside of the male-female binary system. Historical records have used both ‘he’ and ‘she’ pronouns in reference to Łamana and the late We:wa.”

Quetawki says that she’s known about We:wa since she was young, and feels a connection to them. A couple of years ago, she visited the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where she saw a collection of their art. They also are clan relatives, Quetawki says.

“She was from the Badger clan, and I am, also,” Quetawki says. “So there’s a little bit of a personal connection.”

The day before she was approached by Google, Quetawki and friends were talking about her mother and We:wa. Quetawki’s mother passed away last year after a battle with cancer.

“We joked . . .  and said my mom's probably up there, just having a blast with We:wa. They're probably besties,” Quetawki says. “It's the weirdest thing, because the very next day, this is the call that I get. It was like I had to do it. And it's something I couldn't turn down. It’s really neat.”

Quetawki says she was excited at the opportunity to highlight Zuni’s culture, adding that it has been an honor “to put Zuni and our culture out there and show some of our customs that are still around, and show the world who We:wa was, as well.”

Quetawki says her own children were doing the Google Doodle weaving activity featuring her paintings in school. “It was a good starting point for to kick off the Native American month at the schools,” she says.

She hopes that having Zuni represented on Google lends a sense of pride to other Indigenous communities.

“I feel that there's a lot more to Zuni that could be shared, the story about We:wa and just how our culture had that inclusiveness of all individuals, and that their gender role is something that we all needed to be reminded of,” Quetawki says.

“The legacy of We:wa – the generosity and the empathetic nature of who We:wa was – is something I feel not just Zuni, but a lot of Native American communities needed, especially during COVID.”

Zuni art is more than its medium, dating back to “our creation story,” Quetawki says. “I feel that my art has always been a way of record keeping. I like to share that with other Zuni artists, telling them that we are our historians, as well as visual historians.”

Categories: College of Pharmacy, Community Engagement, Diversity, Top Stories