Yup’ik (Eskimo) mask
Nunivak Island, Alaska
Spirit (inua) of the walrus mask
Carved wood, pigments and feathers
Early to mid 20th century
Height: 17 ¼ in. (44 cm)
Ex private collection, Netherlands
The Subarctic region inhabited by the Yup'ik is well supplied with land and sea resources allowing for much time that could be devoted to a full ceremonial life. After freeze-up in the winter, performance cycles were undertaken that were important to maintaining proper human, animal, and spirit-world interactions. Performed inside the qasgiq (communal men's house) during festivals, dances feature face and finger masks that make visible the world of helping spirits and extraordinary beings, and are specially made to tell particular stories. Often used by shamans to facilitate communication and movement between worlds (human and animal, the living and the dead), Yup'ik masks usually were discarded after use.