Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

 

Mask

kegginaquq “mask”
Language: Central Yup'ik

They would put on seal-gut parkas and paint red ocher on them and put on masks and dance. I saw them. Ones that had walrus masks would make sounds like walrus.

—Dick Andrew, 1994 from "The Living Tradition of Yup’ik Masks: Agayuliyararput, Our Way of Making Prayer," 1996

This ceremonial dance mask apparently depicts the kind of powerful tunraaq spirit that lived in the moon and controlled the availability of sea mammals. The spirit’s hand is shown with no thumb and a hole in its palm, symbolizing the community’s desire that it not hold on to all of the animals, allowing some to return for spring hunting. The face of a seal emerges from the left side of the face and other mask appendages include the bow of a kayak and a fin, possibly of a whale. The spirit has pointed teeth and an eye encircled in black, signifying spiritual vision.

Culture: Yup’ik
Region: Alaska
Village: Magemut
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 45cm
Accession Date: 1879
Source: Edward W. Nelson (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E033114