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Mask

ggiinaquq “mask”
Language: Koniag Sugpiaq (Alaska Peninsula dialect)

When they saw the Russian priests in embroidered robes performing the complicated offices of the church it was believed that they were witnessing the white man’s own method of celebrating a mask festival similar to their own.

—Edward Nelson, from “The Eskimo about Bering Strait,” 1899

This woman’s dance mask was designed to frame the face rather than to conceal it. The blue-painted board is decorated with hawk feathers, a feather plume, and beads. Its sinew head-cord ends in large blue beads that were probably imported from China by Russian fur traders. A crown and hood are sketched around the face in red paint, perhaps inspired by the crowned image of Mary on Russian Orthodox icons. This style of mask comes from the Alaska Peninsula, where Yup’ik artists also made them.

Culture: Sugpiaq (Alutiiq)
Region: Alaska Peninsula
Village: Ugashik
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length: 85.0cm (top to bottom including feathers)
Accession Date: 1882
Source: William J. Fisher (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E072507