Essay about Masks

1439 Words 6 Pages
Masks

For hundreds of years masks have played an important role in the lives of the Native Americans of the Northwest Coast. They signify ancient traditions dating from antiquity to present day. The dramatic, colorful masks of the Northwest Coast are some of the most fascinating artifacts produced by Native Americans.

Mask Making

Although the different tribes throughout the Northwest Coast have different traditions and cultures, there are many techniques and styles which are common to the entire region. Traditionally, a maskmaker is an anonymous artisan, always male and always of high status. The artisans who produced masks were not artisans by profession. They were expected to take part in hunting and fishing responsibilities
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Finally, hair, feathers, gold, straw, skin, or other materials might be added to enhance the mask or make it more realistic.

Mask Forms

The tribes of the Northwest coast had masks which depicted many different humans and creatures. There are three kinds of masks, the single face mask, the mechanical mask, and the transformation mask. The single face mask is a single piece of wood. A mechanical mask is built with strings or hinges (after Europeans), which might allow a mask to open and close it~s mouth or eyes. The transformation mask is the most complex kind of mask. It consists of an outer mask that opens up to reveal an inner mask form, which might also open up to reveal a third mask form! Transformations masks are difficult to make and difficult to wear, for the different layers make the mask extremely heavy. Only a strong member of the tribe could wear the transformation mask. The Native Americans formed animal masks to communicate a certain symbolism, myth, or status. In addition, all members of a tribe belonged to a clan, or group of people who supposedly were descended from a specific animal. Therefore, animal masks held special meaning for certain clans.

The Raven is considered to be a trickster. He has magical powers and can often create things just by imagining them. The Raven is also considered to be a hero, for it was supposedly the Raven who discovered the first human

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