Statement of Significance
The mask unfortunately does not have any record about when, where and by whom it was collected. However, the tag of the mask is usually associated with the Wellcome Collection and suggests it is highly possible the mask was part of the distributions from Wellcome Collection during 1951 to 1954.
The Northwest coast refers to the western region of North America bounded by the Pacific Ocean (figure 4). Nowadays, American Indian groups living in this region partially share some cultural customs and artistic practices (King, J.C.H 1979; Inverarity, R.B., 1971; Malin, E. 1978).
|Figure 4 The location of the Northwest Coast. The arrow points out the study area. (Williams, M.S.T 2013:6)|
|Figure 5 The tool-marks found at the front of the mask and the corresponding tools (image a,b,c from Malin, E 1978:21) (Photo:Jiaxin Wu 04. 03. 2019)|
|Figure 6 The tool-marks found at the back of the mask and corresponding tools (image d, e from Malin, E 1978:21)|
(Photo: Jiaxin Wu 04. 03. 2019)
The humanoid mask also attached with social and cultural value as it represents the spirits and or ancestor, is probably carved for three special occasions:
- Potlatch ------ the feasting activity, represents the chiefs and ancestors of high rank;
- Ceremonies ------ for performing and re-enacting myths (figure 7)
- For shamanism and healing
|Figure 7 The transformation mask for potlatch dancing from Kwakwaka’wakw (Inverarity , B.R 1971:figure 90)|
However, after the potlatch ban by Government of Canada in 1881 (until 1951)(John, L 1992), the masks made later were just for sale and for appealing travellers and traders (King, J 1979). Therefore, the mask with traces of use is a good example of Northwest Coast Indian art , culture, and society.
With the aid of UV light and the microscope, the revealed physical damage and accretions of the mask are summarized in figure 8 below.
Alix, C 2012 'Introduction: Arctic peoples and wood' in Études/Inuit/Studies, Vol.36, No.1 pp.5-13,15-22 Université Laval
Emmons et al., 1991. The Tlingit Indians. George Thornton Emmons; edited with additions by Frederica de Laguna and a biography by Jean Low., Seattle: New York: University of Washington Press ; American Museum of Natural History.
Holm, B 1982 Chapter 2: From in Northwest Coast Art in Indian art traditions of the Northwest coast edited by Carlson R.L Burnaby, B.C: Archaeology Press, Simon Fraser University.
Inverarity, R.B., 1971. Art of the Northwest Coast Indians Berkeley. London: University of California Press.
John, L 1992. "After the Fur Trade: The Aboriginal Labouring Class of British Columbia, 1849-1890" in Canadian Historical Association. vol. 3 (no. 1): 69–93. URI:https://id.erudit.org/iderudit/031045ar
Malin, E. 1978. Portland: Timber Press.
Williams, M.S.T. 2009 ‘Alaska and Its People: An Introduction’ in The Alaska native reader history, culture, politics / edited by Williams, M.S.T., Pp. 1-11 Durham: Duke University Press.
The British Museum 2019 Collection Online:
Figure 3a : Object Am1842,1210.84
https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=537657&partId=1&searchText=Tlingit+mask&page=1 [retrieved 05. 04. 2019]
Figure 3b : Object Am, St.705
https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=533907&partId=1&searchText=Tlingit+mask&page=1[retrieved 05. 04. 2019]