Dancing with Masks

By Stott, Margaret A. | UNESCO Courier, December 1996 | Go to article overview

Dancing with Masks


Stott, Margaret A., UNESCO Courier


For the Indians of North America's northwestern coast, ceremonial dance and drama bring ritual masks to life

The ceremonial art of the northwest coast of North America has long inspired admiration. In the past, huge carved and painted totem poles, masks, head-dresses and rattles as well as carved or painted chests, boxes and bowls figured prominently in elaborate feasts and potlatches (ceremonial occasions on which gifts were distributed to affirm social status), and continue to be important to contemporary northwest coast communities.

Important aspects of this art are not permanent or tangible, for while some objects exist for short periods of time and deteriorate, others are created and/or destroyed as part of ceremonial events.

Even during their "lifetimes", these ceremonial objects do not necessarily remain unchanged. Study of the paint on northwest coast masks has revealed that some of them have been repainted in dramatically different designs and colours since their creation. Sometimes elements such as pieces of copper or abalone have been added to areas which originally were only painted.

Along with this evolution in the appearance, form and life of objects, there has always been an emphasis on producing new ones to replace those which have grown old. Part of every potlatch has been the revelation of fine new masks and other objects commissioned by proud hosts to be presented for the admiration of their assembled guests. The concept of the mask or figure remains permanent, but it is recreated and represented in the ceremonial context.

The destruction of masks created for ceremonial purposes occurs in another context amongst the Heiltsuk of Bella Bella, British Columbia. It is their tradition to burn masks and other ceremonial objects representing the crests and privileges of a deceased person. In 1990, following the memorial potlatch held to honour Hereditary Chief Wigvilba Wakas (Leslie Humchitt), masks and other objects created by Nuxalk artist Glenn Tallio (Chief Wakas's son-in-law) were burned "as a gesture of love and respect".

Dance and theatre

In 1967 I went to the Bella Coola Valley armed with photographs of masks, head-dresses and rattles known to have been part of Nuxalk winter ceremonies. The people were excited to see the photographs and loved to discuss them. The conversation usually focused upon who had once owned and used the object in question, and when it had last been publicly displayed in the community.

In some households I was shown masks or other carvings.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Dancing with Masks
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.