Nuxalk Masks

  • Exhibition Text

    • These masks represent supernatural beings and were worn by dancers who performed in the winter ceremonies of the Nuxalk (referred to in the hall as the "Bella Coola"). A ceremony lasted four nights and consisted of many songs, dances, and mythological dramas. Each dance was thought to be an imitation of one performed by a supernatural being in the world above.

      These masks, which represent supernatural beings, were worn by dancers who performed in the winter ceremonies of the Nuxalk. The masks were carved during the ceremony and burned at its conclusion. The larger masks were carved of beech; and the smaller, of alder. Each sculptor endeavored to make a striking effigy with the result that even Nuxalk with considerable knowledge could not always identify the supernatural being portrayed. The principal masks, however, were sufficiently standardized so that they could always be identified. The masks were painted; sometimes the painting identified the mask when the carving failed to do so.

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