Re: Inuit Masks

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Posted by Janis on September 07, 1998 at 14:47:57:

In Reply to: Inuit Masks posted by Elaine on September 05, 1998 at 15:26:27:

: : : Are Eric's masks regarded as religious objects? I assume the original ones were. Is there any organized effort to retrieve the originals that still exist?

: : : Janis

: : Elaine,

: : I would also like to know if there is a story behind each mask or if each one symbolizes something.

: : JC

: Janis and JC,

: The original masks were used by the Inuit during ceremonial dances and were certainly a large part of their spiritual beliefs. The masks reflect Inuit beliefs regarding the relationships between humans, animals, and dieties. Masks depicted various animals and birds and were used for specific purposes. Some masks (tunghak masks) were used by shamans to plead for blessings such as abundant game or favors. Others were death masks.

: Each of the many, many spirit masks symbolize a different animal and intent, and each has its own meaning. Eric Schweig can and will carve any of these ceremonial masks as long as it is Inuit. Someone (Ayesha?) asked about the "Evil Patriot" spirit mask ... the long forehead seen on such a mask generally represented one of the evil spirits the Inuit believed to exist. Eric Schweig named this one "Evil Patriot" because of the evil spirit representation combined with the red, white, and blue colors.

: I don't think these current carvings should be regarded as religious objects, but rather as cultural.

: Typically,masks were destroyed, usually burned, after their use. However, Russian collectors acquired many *artifacts*, including masks, during the 18th and 19th centuries. The collections are currently housed in Leningrad's Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography.
: There is no organized effort to *retrieve* the original masks, though one of Eric Schweig's stated objectives is to "reclaim" them by reproducing them.

: Elaine

Thanks for the explanation!


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