Inupiaq Mask

Archives | Alaska

Inupiaq Mask

Alaska

Inupiaq shamanic mask (Eskimo)
Bering Strait area, Point Hope

Carved wood, pigment
Middle 19th century
Height: 19.5 cm

Ex collection Ron Nasser – John Molloy, New York
Ex collection John Giltsoff
Ex private collection

Published: John Giltsoff, 2009

Sold
This shamanic mask from the Point Hope area, north of the Bering Strait is a superb example of ancient Inupiaq (Eskimo) ritual art.
The rendering of the face features combines elegance and dynamism. The presence of painted tattoos under the lower lip suggests that the mask if a female representation.
The Subarctic region inhabited by the Iniupiaq (Eskimo) peoples in Alaska is well supplied with land and sea resources allowing for much time that could be devoted to a full ceremonial life. After freezeup in the winter, performance cycles were undertaken that were important to maintaining proper human, animal and spirit-world interactions. These ritual and shamanic ceremonies took place in the Men’s House (qasaiq). During masked ceremonies, shamans, under the protection of their animal-guides entered into a trance to communicate with the spirit world. Before leaving on a hunt, men also had to observe a certain number of dictates to assure themselves of the beneficial support of tutelary spirits, the « masters » of game animals.
This Inupiaq mask perfectly illustrates the aesthetic qualities of the archaic art of the extreme Far North. The face features are remarkably rendered on this naturalist portrait with. A magnetic presence emanates from this Point Hope mask.
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