Mask: the bad spirit of the mountain

late 19th century
more object details

General Description

The Yup'ik Eskimo of western Alaska, believe that everything has a spirit (or soul)—people, animals, and things—and all participate in an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. The boundaries between the spirit world and the real world are not always clear.

Yup’ik seasonal festivals held in the men’s house, the social and ceremonial center of the village, often included masked dances. Masks with encircling hoops manifest shamanic visions of the spirit world, connoting movement between the human and supernatural worlds—they are often decorated with feathers that represent stars or snowflakes. The face of this mask represents the bad spirit of the mountain, alluding to the boundaries and relationship between human beings and the spirit world.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Mask with seal or sea otter spirit (1976.50)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 59.

  • DMA Label Copy (1976.50), n.d.