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Friday, May 12, 2017

Galugadza'yi Mask, Kwakwaka’wakw

This mask, also known as the Crooked Beak Mask, is used in the Hamatsa Dance of the Winter Festival and was carved by the well known carver, George Wal.  I always thought the masks and artistry of the Northwest Indian tribes to be so uniquely beautiful and dramatic.  They are, but it turns out they have a darker side as well, and this mask is a perfect example.  The Hamatsa dance is also known as the Cannibal Dance.  The dance comes from the spirit of Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ (The Man Eater from the North End of the World).  In ancient times, this supernatural being lived far in the mountains with his family. Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ would fly down into nearby villages, capture people and carry them back to his home to eat. Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ killed many people. Few saw him and lived. Some lucky ancestors had spiritual gifts that protected them.  Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ was unable to harm these people. On these occasions, as a gift for discovering him, he was willing to give them some of the rights to his ceremonies.  In some legends, Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ was killed, and through his death the ancestors could claim his songs, dances and names.  Not so peaceful.

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