Written by Hayes for his very first one-man show held at Keshi circa 1999:
When I was growing up in Zuni, I Hayes never thought I would go into making any type of creative art. Although, fetish carving has been around for many years, I never thought I’d be making it this far with my work.
I come from a family with fetish carvers. My grandfather was a well known fetish carver, his name was known as Leekya Deyuse. He was much fully active and popular in the late 1800’s up to 1966 when he died of natural causes. After his death one year later I was born to Mr. & Mrs. Francis Leekya Sr., on July 19, 1967. As I was growing up in a very big family with seven sisters, and three brothers, I was always curious to what my father was doing. I always sat with my father while he worked on his carvings. I watched him make every turn, every detail, and finally, a finished piece of art. About the time when he was working on fetishes, he was also working on jewelry with inlay. Since this time the jewelry business was in full swing, he decided to work mostly on jewelry and quit on fetish carving.
In 1985 the year I graduated from High School, I decided to further my education. I applied to a Job Corp Center in Oklahoma. When I got into the job corp I decided to study automotive. In 1987 I completed my studies, and came back home. Two years later I got a job with White’s Hardware I was also making jewelry, the inlay type. It was going real good, but then the two people I admired the most gave me the influence to give fetishes a try. These two people were my brothers Freddie and Delvin Leekya. They always told me how fun it was to give new things a try. I really didn’t take them up in the offer until 1997. This was the year I gave myself a chance to try out what talent I had. Along with making jewelry and carving fetishes I also work full time with the Zuni Public Library, as a Library assistant. With all the influences that I get from my family I decided to do fetish carving. It gives me a great feeling when I finish a piece that resembles my grandfather’s art.
With all the different types of jobs I do I am also a full time parent. I have been married for 9 years to Sangelita Dishta-Leekya. We have one daughter Chassidy, who is 8 years old, two sons Joshua, who is 5 years old, and Shawn who is 3 years old. It is a lot of hard work trying to keep the kids on the right track, but it is also fun to watch them grow up. I try to teach them the art of fetish carving at this age, but sometimes it’s too hard to keep their minds set on one thing. Hopefully as time goes on they will carry on the traditions of fetish carving.
Looking back to when I was young and not knowing where I was to end up, I give special thanks to my parents who had faith in me, my two brothers who have influenced me to get me started on carving. I especially would like to thank Keshi collections for giving me the opportunity to show my art work to people who collect art as treasures.
Thank you…… Hayes Leekya
For more information on Hayes, please go to "keshi in the press" to access the following article: "A Fetish for Carving."
Photo by Jeff Jones