Monday, December 30, 2013

Celebrations and Masks!

Ceremonial life of the West Coast Nations is vibrantly on exhibit at the Peace River Museum! Thanks to a generous loan of artifacts from Dr. David Welch, the Museum is featuring, amongst West Coast and Plains First Nations objects, a colourful collection of West Coast masks.

Northwest Coast First Nations artists are renowned for their carvings, especially of totem poles. Totem poles are carved for many reasons. They can represent clans or families or serve mortuary, memorial, shaming or welcoming purposes. Similarly, dances performed with masks can serve specific purposes and have different meanings.

In wintertime, Coastal First Nations villages were visited by supernatural beings or spirits. This was the time of year when villagers would feast, dance, sing and for some, be initiated into secret societies. Dances performed with masks during these times were representative of the supernatural entities that were visiting the village from their caves, forests, waters and skies.

Animal and human figures appear on both carved totems and masks. Many animals, supernatural beings and spirits are carved with human features; similarly, humans are sometimes carved with non-human features. This blending of animal, spiritual and human characteristics is known as anthropomorphism. Features on anthropomorphized carvings can be enlarged, shrunk or distorted in order to fit the distinct shape of the material being carved.

The Portrait Mask is carved to represent a personal experience and here is painted in the principal colours red and black. The Bumble Bee Mask is black, red and yellow. Colours traditionally used on masks were primarily blue, green, black and red from natural pigments. Black was created using lignite, charcoal and graphite. Red came from pulverized ochre or hematite and the blues and green were derived from copper minerals.

The Sense of the Land And Its People : A Private Collection is on exhibit until September 2014.
Bumble bee mask 
Portrait mask 

No comments: