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Talking Man Mask

Arts of the Americas

CULTURE Possibly Haida
MEDIUM Wood, pigment
  • Place Made: Alaska, United States
  • DATES late 19th century
    DIMENSIONS 11 13/16 x 9 1/2 in. (30 x 24.1 cm)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Gift of M. C. Eaton
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION This deeply carved mask is painted with brown, red, green and white. It has painted eyebrows and teeth. The jaw is loose and could be manipulated in a dance performance to indicate a talking mask. This mask is identified as representing an orator, the individual who would recount the histories that were dramatized by Winter Dance performers. The lower jaw, articulated to produce a more lifelike effect, would be moved to imitate the actions of the performer as he spoke. These types of masks were once common among many Northwest Coast tribes and each had their own stories to tell. The deeply carved and exaggerated features of this image are more typical of Heiltsuk that Haida style but the mask could have come from either nation. The otherworldly appearance of the mask would have been attenuated by the flickering light and shadows of the fire lit performance.
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