We have learned that Huichol artist José Benitez Sanchez passed away on July 2nd, 2009. Known in his language as the "Silent Walker" he was a renkowned shaman, a respected public figure among the Huichol Indians of Mexico, and certainly the most celebrated artist of "Nierika" yarn paintings. He had been ill for some time, and recently suffered some serious injuries. May his spirit rest.
José Benitez Sanchez was born in 1938 in the settlement of San Pablo, where his father was a famous mara’akáme. Benitez credits his own path as a shaman to a revelation following an illness when he was fifteen, after which he set off on his first pilgrimage to Wirikuta. Benitez pursued the dual paths of shaman and artist almost from the start, and has been recognized as a master since the 1970’s. He pioneered a style of fluid figures in compositons which are dynamic, complex, and colorful to the point of being psychedelic. His success as an artist coincided with his growing stature in his own community. He helped found the indigenous community of Tsitákua, and was elected its first tatoani, or governor. Benitez’ work has been exhibited world-wide, and is included in many private and public collections. In addition to the substantial collection which was exhibited at the University of Pennsylvania his work is included in the collection at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.