Yup’ik Mask

Archives | Alaska

Yup’ik Mask

Alaska

Yup’ik shamanic mask (Eskimo)
Sculpin inua (spirit) mask
Lower Yukon

Carved wood
19th century
Height: 20 in.(51 cm)

Provenance:
Ex collection Basha & Perry Lewis, New York, acquired in the 1990s
Ex collection Jeffrey R. Myers, New York
Ex collection Pinchas Mendelson, New York, since 2002

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This Yup’ik mask is a rare example of Eskimo shamanic mask with great purity of forms. Eskimo culture is characterized by a wide variety of cultural forms, and complex art. This fine example may be said to represent tunghak, a lunar spirit. The face is surmounted by a long, stylized fish-tail, a transformational/ shamanic reference. The fish in question is probably a sculpin (or bullhead), a fish living at the bottom of the sea, often hiding in the sand. This fish was sacred to the shamans in the Far North, symbolically linking various dimensions (earth / sea), and underlining the duality of the world (what is visible/ what is hidden).
This mask conveys a strong sense of mystery and poetry.
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