Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Paint brush

k’áalaangw “paint brush”
Language: Haida

To make a paint brush they would take a small piece of wood and tie it about four inches from the end, then split it down to where the tie stopped it…They placed the hair inside the split… They used guard hairs from the porcupine because they are hollow and take up the paint.

—Donald Gregory, 2005

The two brushes on display were part of a set that also included tattoo needles, suggesting they may have been owned by an artist who specialized in body decoration. Clan designs were painted on the face for dances, ceremonies, girls’ initiation, and death; tattoos were an important symbol of high rank, applied by paid artists of the opposite moiety (clan group) during potlatches. The handle of this brush represents a salmon.

Culture: Haida
Region: Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, Canada
Village: Masset
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 24.5cm
Accession Date: 1883
Source: James G. Swan (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E088905B